While my personal Wikipedia app of choice will always be Articles from Sophiestication Software, or even Wikibot (they have a handy Mac version), I can’t resist new Wikipedia apps. This applies even more if they offer a refreshing new take on how to look at our favorite Internet encyclopedia.
I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I can easily waste hours on Wikipedia throughout the day. There is just so much information available at your fingertips, and you get sucked through an information wormhole with links to other wikis, especially if you do random searches. But have you ever wanted a better way to look at how things are connected to each other? Wikiweb offers just that.
When you launch Wikiweb, you will get a brief introduction to the app that explains the gestures involved. The option to view a demo is available too, though I believe that the app is pretty intuitive from the start.
To start a search, you just have to tap on the magnifying glass, or double-tap on an existing search to clear it. As you type, search results will show up in real-time, just like it would in most other Wikipedia apps. Once you find the result you want, select it, and it will appear as a single word with a hexagon on the screen. If that’s the only thing you care to read, just tap-and-hold it, or swipe from the right edge of the screen to view the actual article.
That fun with Wikiweb, though, is seeing a diagram of how everything is connected with each other. If you perform a single tap on a generic topic, the hexagon will rattle and then burst into a web of related topics. Tapping on one of the new topics will repeat the process. Each level of expansion on the diagram will be color-coded, so you can easily tell groups apart. You can zoom in or out with a pinch gesture.
If you’re not careful though, you’ll end up with a very complex webbing. To backtrack and hide unwanted groups, just double-tap the center topic that you want to hide (the main topics will appear bold). To read the Wikipedia entry on anything, just tap-and-hold. Your web of articles can be shared on Twitter or by email.
The reading experience is pretty barebones in Wikiweb. You’ll get access to the full article and images, and can access the table of contents, if applicable. You can even adjust the size of the text with a slider, though it takes a few seconds for it to render. Unfortunately, the app does not contain any other font options, so you’re stuck with the default serif.
I’m liking Wikiweb for the unique perspective that the app offers, but it has a few flaws as far as the reading experience goes. For one, there is no full-screen reading view, which is disappointing. Hopefully this can be implemented in the near future. Secondly, articles take a moment to load up — I would prefer to have faster loading of pages, like I do with Articles.
Also, the current way in which topics are displayed does not distinguish more popular topics from obscure ones — it would be nice to see the more trendy topics displayed in larger text, or something to differentiate from the rest.
The app itself is easy-to-use and presents Wikipedia in an unique approach that makes one wonder, “Why wasn’t this done sooner?” Despite current minor flaws, I still recommend checking it out. It’s one of those apps that you have to try to believe.
I used the app on my iPhone for this review, but it is a universal app. The larger screen of the iPad will accommodate complex webs better.