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Goodbye, Encarta. A cautionary tale for newspapers?

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Wikipedia killed Encarta.

Encarta was the early digital encyclopedia. It began life as CD/ROM and increasingly went online. What it never did was truly embrace the power of the Internet.

What does that say about how we get information? And about the future of newspapers?

Updating the online encyclopedias

Try this. Go to the third paragraph of the Encarta entry in Wikipedia. As of an hour after the announcement by Encarta's parent, Microsoft, this sentence had been added:

"All editions of Encarta except Encarta Japan are being discontinued as of October 31, 2009 ... Encarta Japan will be discontinued on December 31, 2009."

Who added it? Who knows? But that's the kind of instant updating that an organic, crowd-sourced encyclopedia born on the Internet can do.

Encarta.com, of course, has the news of Encarta's demise, too, but as Techcrunch.com points out, it's in a Microsoft product announcement FAQ on the site. It's impossible to find an Encarta entry on the subject of "Encarta."

The self-aware Web

More mad science: Go to Wikipedia.com and search for Wikipedia. (Don't worry, it won't cause a cognitive meltdown of the Internets.) Among other things, you get an extensive article with this self-aware passage:

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