What are the most-edited articles through Wikipedia's history?

Millions_of_protestors_in_Tahrir_Square
War and tragedy features heavily on the list. Photo by Jonathan Rashad, freely licensed under CC BY 2.0.

In the beginning, there was Creationism.
The much-debated belief that a supreme being created the physical universe was the most-edited article in Wikipedia’s first year, 2001. But in the genesis of the open-sourced encyclopedia powered by the world, that didn’t amount to a lot of edits: just 179 edits made it the top article for all of Wikipedia’s first year.
As Wikipedia turns 15 on Friday, things have evolved a great deal. The English-language Wikipedia is just one of many Wikimedia projects today, and its 5,053,647 articles have now been edited 808,187,367 times (as of press time). Parsing those edits by year brings into focus a fascinating evolution of the current millennia online, revealing not just what people clicked on or read or even shared. The most-edited articles show what Wikipedians created and shaped and gave to the world as this millennia began to unfold.
The most-edited article this past year, Deaths in 2015, inspired 18,271 edits[1]—more than 100 times the total that put creationism on top 15 years ago. Deaths in [year] are staples in the English Wikipedia’s editing history; they are the most-edited articles in each year between 2007 and 2015, and the second-most in 2001, 2003, and 2006. As such, we’ve mostly omitted them in the list.
Obituaries of the year show up through the list of each year’s most-edited articles, but some surprises and zeitgeist zings also pop up among the most edited articles in each of Wikipedia’s 15 years. The aggregate list from all 15 years follows at the bottom.
Our thanks go to Stephen LaPorte for obtaining the year-by-year data. You can see the full list on Hatnote.
2001 – Most edited article: Creationism (149 edits) Also on the list at #3: Feminism, which today boasts 225 references and resources at Wikipedia's sister projects, Wikimedia Commons, Wikiquote, and Wikiversity.
2001: Most edited article: Creationism (149 edits) Also on the list at #3: Feminism, which today boasts 225 references and resources at Wikipedia’s sister projects, Wikimedia Commons, Wikiquote, and Wikiversity. Painting by Michelangelo, public domain
2002 – Wikipedia’s Main Page got the most work in its second year, with 449 edits, after being moved from "homepage" (now an actual article). Also on this list in Year 2: List of Canadians, topped by the end of that year by author Margaret Atwood and songwriter Leonard Cohen.
2002: Wikipedia’s Main Page got the most work in its second year, with 449 edits, after being moved from “homepage” (now an actual article). Also on this list in Year 2: List of Canadians, topped by the end of that year by author Margaret Atwood and songwriter Leonard Cohen. Screenshot by English Wikipedia editors, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Tetris_DOS_1986
2003: In year three the Main Page again saw the most editing, jumping to 2,072 edits. Also on the list was Timeline of computer and video games, which creaks with age when looked at now: Super Mario Brothers, Tetris, Tomb Raider close the list. Screenshot by tetris.com, used under fair use in the Wikipedia article for this game.
Bush_Kerry_2004
2004: Wikipedia got political in 2004, with Republican George W. Bush getting the most scrutiny from editors with (5,527 edits). After a community vetting process, the article is today rated as a “good” article. Coming in second, as in other arenas that year, was Democrat John Kerry. Photo by Matthew Trump, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.
050830-C-3721C-032
2005: George W. Bush was again the most edited article, this year with 20,894 edits; the havoc-wreaking Hurricane Katrina was right behind the president. #3 got meta: the Wikipedia article on Wikipedia. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class NyxoLyno Cangemi, public domain
Wii-Console
2006: That year’s Lebanon War drew 15,067 edits. #3 on the list was Wii (12,735 edits), the home video game console released by Nintendo on November 19 of that year. Photo by Evan-Amos, public domain
WWE's_The_New_Day_Jan_2015
2007: The annual deaths of the year topped the list, as it did for the following eight years. It was followed by List of WWE personnel (9,825 edits)—one of the most-edited pages of all time, even though it only appears on this list once. #3 was the Virginia Tech shooting (9,116 edits) that killed 32 in April 2007. Photo by Megan Elice Meadows, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Sarah_Palin_at_Chambliss_rally
2008: #2 was a controversial personality much discussed in that US election year: vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin (10,429 edits). #3 got meta again: 2008 (9,155 edits). Photo by Bruce Tuten, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
H1N1_map_by_confirmed_cases
2009: Gaza War (10,490 edits) slotted in behind deaths but ahead of the H1N1 influenza virus pandemic (7,460 edits). Photo by HotWikiBR, public domain
Gaza_flotilla_raid_map
2010: Miss Universe 2010 (6,109 edits) came in second; the Gaza flotilla raid (5,881 edits) followed. Photo by Montgomery, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.
Tahrir_Square_during_8_February_2011
2011: The Arab Spring had an impact on Wikipedia as well as the Middle East: the #2 and #3 most-edited articles were Libyan Civil War (9,311 edits) and Egyptian Revolution of 2011 (6,470 edits), respectively. Photo by Mona, freely licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Gangnam Style by Psy
2012: Unrest popped up again with the Syrian Civil War (#2; 7,760 edits), but popular culture took #3: the absolutely inescapable viral pop music hit “Gangnam Style” (5,028 edits), still the most-viewed video on YouTube. Photo by Eva Rinaldi, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
1st_Boston_Marathon_blast_seen_from_2nd_floor_and_a_half_block_away
2013: Death was prevalent in this year: the annual list of deaths was still #1, the deadliest typhoon season since 1975 took #2 (6,077 edits), and the Boston Marathon bombing was #3 (6,005 edits). Photo by Aaron Tang, freely licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Boeing_777-200ER_Malaysia_AL_(MAS)_9M-MRO_-_MSN_28420_404_(9272090094)
2014: Second on the list was Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared in March of that year and was edited 10,055 times. Photo by Laurent ERRERA, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Taku_D_Peak
2015: And last year’s most-edited stories proved once again that Wikipedia can still be zany, despite all its accomplishments. While Deaths of the year was still the most-edited story, Geospatial summary of the High Peaks/Summits of the Juneau Icefield was #2—one editor made 7,265 edits, and everyone else made 29. Photo by Walles39, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Most-edited articles of all time

President_George_W._Bush_discussing_Social_Security
Photo by Eric Draper, public domain.
After getting the data for each year, we wondered what the most-edited articles on the English-language Wikipedia for all 15 of its years. It turns out that it’s a controversial president who served for eight years, followed by wrestlers.
George W. Bush, 2004 and 2005’s most edited article, topped this list—an unsurprising place, given that it was named as the most controversial topic on the English Wikipedia in Global Wikipedia, published in 2014. Several other articles on this list are mirrored on the most controversial list, such as list of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. personnel, which came in second by only a few thousand edits. History comes up with Adolf Hitler and World War II, while religion includes the Catholic Church and the article for Jesus.
Of course, Wikipedia’s oddities also spring up. While Britney Spears is a world-famous music artist, one would probably not put her into world history alongside the Catholic Church, Adolf Hitler, or World War II. Also making appearances is the list of programs broadcast by ABS-CBN, one of oldest television stations in Asia and the first in the Philippines, and Wikipedia’s meta article on itself
You can see more of this data on the English Wikipedia; sort by namespace zero.
](1)George W. Bush (45,862); (2)List of WWE personnel (42,863); (3)United States (35,742); (4)Wikipedia (33,958); (5)Michael Jackson (28,152); (6)Jesus (28,084); (7)Catholic Church (26,421); (8)List of programs broadcast by ABS-CBN (25,188); (9)Barack Obama (24,708); (10)Adolf Hitler (24,612); (11)Britney Spears (23,802); (12)World War II (23,739); (13)Deaths in 2013 (22,529); (14)The Beatles (22,399); (15)India (22,271). Chart by Andrew Sherman.
Jeff Elder, Digital Communications Manager
Ed Erhart, Editorial Associate
Wikimedia Foundation

Note

[1] Wikipedians chronicle the deaths by month, so the page now redirects to a so-called “list of lists of deaths.”

Archive notice: This is an archived post from blog.wikimedia.org, which operated under different editorial and content guidelines than Diff.

41 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Wow, great!

The chart says “Word War II”

Good list. thanks for sharing this statistic.

Fantastic stuff!
Zeitgeist indeed.

From one hundred and seventy nine edits in year two thousand and one to eight hundred and eight million one hundred and eighty seven thousand three hundred and sixty seven edits in year twenty fifteen. Wow, what a milestone, happy birthday Wikipedia.

This is a remarkable story. I still haven’t been able to forget the tragedy Malaysaia Airlines. Thank you for sharing

“it’s 5,053,647 articles”
Please correct.

It’s all very nice but is there any data on most read articles? I have been asked about those by media and I had no answer.

We have to agree that most controversial subject is meant to change according to authors opinion and facts.

[…] At the end of Wikipedia's first year, the most edited entry was about Creationism – the religious belief that life is a divine creation – with 179 edits, noted Jeff Elder and Ed Erhart from the Wikimedia Foundation in a blog post. […]

Great work – Thank you!!! Which articles are most frequently referenced?

Keep on, Keepin’ on!

Well done

If Trump wins, will he surpass Bush?

Ultimately unimportant, but kind of odd that the page Geospatial summary of the High Peaks/Summits of the Juneau Icefield has been edited so often but has a typo in the very first part (“deelineated”). Thanks for this report – Fascinating.

Life before Wikipedia seems like how it must have felt before the Guttenberg Press. To think you can take the sum total of man’s knowledge to the darkest corners of the globe. Eventually ignorance can become obsolete…Every reference to Wikipedia has inspired me and restores my confidence that taking individual responsibility and using these tools will finally prove mankind’s nobility.

It’s hard to imagine a world now without Wikipedia! I remember the old encyclopedias and that was considered a fount of knowledge in the days! Happy Birthday to a wonderful instituion that has served and will continue to serve. Brilliant!

We once told our high school students Wikipedia was not a source they could note. By 2012 we taught them how to properly reference in Works Cited. Now we say start here, but must have additional sources! Thank you for your scholarship!

Happy Birthday. You are brilliant.

Who would of thought!

I contribute financially, although a small amount, because I am very grateful and consider that we are blessed to have such a resource. With Wikipedia & Google & the Holy Spirit of God the world at large & my small personal world has greatly benefited.

Always a BIG Help. Thanks for being you!!

During this POTUS election year, Wiki has been the first (but not only) source for fact-checking.

What a pleasure to read comments for the most part on the high road positive side. A very nice credit to you, happy birthday and thanks.

First off I would like to say great blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like
to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your head before writing.
I’ve had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my
thoughts out. I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10
to 15 minutes are lost simply just trying to figure out how to
begin. Any suggestions or tips? Kudos!

Excellent Article

[…] quite an impression. Years after it was last employed by Wikipedia editors, The Telegraph wrote on Wikipedia’s 15th birthday last January that “The world probably doesn’t need zillions of explanatory articles about […]

[…] lenta.ru. Результаты были опубликованы в официальном блоге администраторов […]

[…] are only three common names between this list and a similar list for the English Wikipedia (scroll to the bottom): Adolf Hitler, Jesus, and World War II. Articles on Germany itself swept the […]

[…] исполнилось 15 лет. В честь этого Википедия обнародовала список самых часто редактируемых статей в […]

[…] At the end of Wikipedia’s first year, the most edited entry was about Creationism – the religious belief that life is a divine creation – with 179 edits, noted Jeff Elder and Ed Herhard from the Wikimedia Foundation in a blog post. […]

[…] page will come under even more scrutiny: the Wikimedia Foundation revealed earlier this year that George W Bush’s article has the most edits of any article in English in the history of the site, with 45,862 revisions at last […]

[…] page will come under even more scrutiny: The Wikimedia Foundation revealed earlier this year that George W Bush’s article has the most edits of any article in English in the history of the site, with 45,862 revisions at last […]

[…] page will come under even more scrutiny: The Wikimedia Foundation revealed earlier this year that George W Bush’s article has the most edits of any article in English in the history of the site, with 45,862 revisions at last […]

[…] page will come under even more scrutiny: The Wikimedia Foundation revealed earlier this year that George W Bush’s article has the most edits of any article in English in the history of the site, with 45,862 revisions at last […]

[…] page will come under even more scrutiny: The Wikimedia Foundation revealed earlier this year that George W Bush’s article has the most edits of any article in English in the history of the site, with 45,862 revisions at last […]

[…] year and the winner of Wiki Loves Monuments—and factual lists, with the most-edited articles in the English Wikipedia’s history and in […]

[…] That makes it the most heavily edited subject on the site, said a recently released list on the Wikimedia blog, above Michael Jackson (28,152), Jesus (25,084) and The Beatles […]

[…] mark the occasion of its 15th anniversary in January 2016, the site published a list of the 15 most heavily edited English-language […]