Free hosted wikis: comparison of wiki farms

For the preparation of an event (not job-related), I was searching for a free hosted wiki, to avoid the hassle of installing one myself. The wiki will be used to collect ideas for the programme, keep track of task lists, and let people subscribe for the event (by simply adding names). The audience is web-savvy but not necessarily geeky, so it had to be simple, self-explaining, and preferably WYSIWYG. Here’s the list of services I evaluated:

Seedwiki:

  • like all other services, free version has contextual ads running
  • paid versions have password protection, user management
  • the free version does not have its own subdomain like many other services offer
  • has a WYSIWYG editor – no has several WYSIWYG editors at the same time, which makes it kind of confusing!

Conclusion: has some nice features, but for my purposes, this was far too complex and not (end)user friendly enough.

PBWiki:

  • Spartan interface
  • the ads or support links are a bit in-your-face
  • no possibility to edit without registration – you need “the” wiki password (that only the issuer can change)
  • no help on wiki syntax found (you can have at the wiki source of example pages, and it follows the usual Wiki Markup)
  • no possibility to delete your wiki

Not satisfying at all, unless for a closed group of geek-minded users

WikiCities:

  • based on MediaWiki (the software Wikipedia is running)
  • so no WYSIWYG, and Mediawiki was probably too feature-rich and too complex

Conclusion: probably a good solution for people already into wiki’s, not for my purpose

Schtuff:

  • document-centered, not page-centered
  • homepage shows last documents instead of being editable
  • “creating a document” requires a pop-up window?!
  • not WYSIWYG
  • registration is required to edit
  • the only service I saw with the possibility to delete (your own) spaces (which is a plus)

Far too complex and far from user-friendly, I can’t see why it got such good reviews.

Wikispaces :

  • no possibility to delete or to rename self-created wikis (*)
  • I found the pop-up to create links a bit confusing
  • sober, but effective WYSIWYG, multilevel bullet lists being the only feature I really missed
  • Feeds: global feed for page changes, comments feeds, per-page feed
  • really big plus: editable left menu, so end users can navigate through the wiki easily without getting lost in the wiki functionality!
  • there’s a comments feature, but it’s not really well integrated into the wiki pages, and it’s impossible to delete comments

Conclusion: the people behind Wikispaces have really thought about how create a finished wiki product out of the myriads of existing wiki practices: simple, nice interface, but still feature-rich enough if you dig deeper.

Xwiki.com

  • has more portal features than being a pure wiki
  • too complex, so I gave up on registration

Riters.com

  • hosts MoinMoin wiki’s
  • so again too geeky for my audience

Overall conclusion:

Wikispaces definitely has some drawbacks, but for my purpose at this time there was no competition. (Going through my list again, I noticed I mainly wrote down negative points, but I can imagine each one of these services can be a satisfactory solution for a particular purpose or a particular type of users!)
I did not consider paid solutions like Jotspot, Confluence or Socialtext, but they really might be worth the money (as well as the paid upgrades of the free hosts I described) if you’re searching for a more complex solution or one that has to be more lasting than the throw-away wiki I needed for this one event.

More resources:

* Update January 9, 2006

Also note that it wasn’t possible to delete or rename individual pages.  (You could delete a page by simply emptying the content, and “rename” it by moving the content to a newly created one as a workaround).  Wikispaces has added this feature now, but still internal references to pages aren’t updated automatically.  I know cool URL’s don’t change, so one should not encourage renaming pages, but still it feels strange that there is a feature called “renaming” without at least the option to have all references updated automatically (like the open source wiki TikiWiki does, for example).  I assume it’s only a matter of time before it’ll be added to the impressive list of other improvements

57 Responses to “Free hosted wikis: comparison of wiki farms”

  1. Jonathan David Nolen Says:

    Another free wiki host comparison

    Pascal Van Hecke has a nice comparison of the free wiki hosts out there right now, including many that I’ve mentioned here before. I’ve been meaning to bring my own list up-to-date for a while, but now he’s done it

  2. MsBlueBells Says:

    I love Wikispaces. This place is so open and easy. I get turned off if I find barriers to entry, financial, cultural, organization or otherwise. Here really I have found none of substance. They let me do my work with a nice simple pleasing interface. It is not overly complicated. Wikispaces is a good Wiki farm with a lot of interesting sites and seems to engender a mature philosopy of “live and let live”. Highly recommended

  3. Library clips :: PeanutButterWiki :: September :: 2005 Says:

    [...] Wikicities, seedwiki, swiki and Wikispaces. [thanks TechCrunch] [ADDED: 1/11/05 Here are some more] Comments » The URI [...]

  4. David Weekly Says:

    Pascal,

    Hi! Thanks for including pbwiki in your review. We’d be very interested in working with you to fix your concerns about our service. You mentioned that our ads seemed “in-your-face”, but this confused me as we only have a small linkbar placed on the bottom of a wiki’s page that has been made public. Was there something else that you meant? You also seemed puzzled by a lack of wiki documentation – did you miss our FAQ and WikiStyle pages? (The FAQ link is at the top of every pbwiki page and the WikiStyle page is included with all wikis.) We’d like to help make people feel welcome quickly at pbwiki and we’d love your assistance in doing so. Just email me!

  5. Ludovic Dubost (XWiki) Says:

    Hi Pascal,

    Thanks also for including XWiki in the review. I’d love to know also more about your concerns about the complexity of XWiki.

    Indeed XWiki includes additional features like Blogs/Photos but there are written wiki-style, which is what makes XWiki different. But it’s like a shop and you can very easily get rid of the unwanted features as they are all build as XWiki pages.

    Ludovic

  6. Interdependent Thoughts Says:

    Guerilla Knowledge Management

    Wiki’s, blogs en syndicatie. Hoe light-weight collaboration en publishing tools vanop het publieke internet ingang vinden in het bedrijfsleven. Dat is de titel van een seminar waar ik op 16 november aanstaande zal spreken. Het vindt plaats in Di…

  7. Pascal Says:

    @ David

    Hello David,

    The single reason why I wrote “in-your-face” was that in most other solutions, the ads are visually isolated from the actual content (in a sidebar, in a pane with a different colour…), whereas in PBWiki, they’re in the text pane itself (immediately under the text entry, between the entry text and the edit/home/changes… buttons).

    Although there’s just one text ad, I thought it could confuse visitors who are less used to text ads. Of course – running a service costs money and every site owner will need to find a compromise there… If the compromise you found is fine with most of your users, you shouldn’t worry – I just considered it a minus for the audience I had in mind.

    I did see the FAQ, but I didn’t expect my audience to have the patience to read it through. For them the wiki is just a tool, and I knew they would start mailing me instead of putting stuff online themselves, if they found threshold too high for doing so. As for editing, what I was searching for was a way of editing that was either WYSIWYG or where the user got help in the editing interface itself – for again, I didn’t expect anyone without wiki experience would go and read a separate page about formatting.

    @ Ludovic

    Ludovic,

    The portal-like concept is not a disadvantage in itself (I am a heavy and happy user of tikiwiki in a closed environment), it was just not what I was looking for this time… I just surfed around in some example open wikis to get an idea and I did not test the admin interface itself (since I didn’t even complete registration) to see how to simplify the environment. I have to admit that at the moment I was going through the Xwiki site, I already had tested Wikispaces, so I did spend considerable less time with the services that were last in the list…

    @David and Ludovic:

    I don’t doubt you are aware of this, but since competition is hard in this space, (and most users are spoilt and impatient like me :-) ), it might be a good idea to specialise and differentiate – why not put up a short comparison of your service with competitors on your site (or even better – let your users write it)?

  8. Swami Says:

    An excellent comparison. Just what I was looking for. Great job & thanks.
    It might be helpful for other people to find this if you add a reference to this page in Wikipedia.

  9. Trick of the Light » Blog Archive » Links 7.12 Says:

    [...] Audio: Slawsome and Odeo Populicio.us: Dedicted to magnifying the usability of Del.icio.us Wikifarms: Free, hosted Wikis Boast Machine: Open-sou [...]

  10. abhay Says:

    Hello Everybody,

    Its a great comparison and i would recommend to include the blog based MovableType in the comparison chrts as well.
    I seek to get help from this forum about a installable wiki to be used for collaborative purposes in my office(around 100 employees).We have negated the option of a web based wiki for the security concerns arising out of it (are these concerns valid anyway,i would be grateful if you can throw some light on this too) though Jotspot seemed to be an ideal set of wikki tools to run a collaborative research in here.

    Is there any wiki (free or available completely with installation set up) that can be installed on a server and used for intranet research(internal office collaboration)?

  11. Pascal Says:

    Hi Abhay,

    From the paid solutions I mentioned, Confluence or Socialtext, have a version you can run in-house (Socialtext as an appliance, Confluence as licensed software).

    You might however have a look at the plethora of open source wiki’s that exists. First decide the platform, language you want to run your wiki on and then evaluate the available solutions: have a look at these lists:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wiki_software
    http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiEngines
    http://www.wikimatrix.org/

  12. Rob Kohr Says:

    Another wiki farm is EditThis.info.
    It is a free MediaWiki hosting (uses the same software as Wikipedia). One field to fill in to setup up. Unlimited pages and users. Basic account includes google map support, math markup, wiki spam protection, 25MB of disk space, and RSS feeds

  13. Pascal Says:

    Hi Rob,

    thx.
    More and more services show up.
    yet another is http://www.stikipad.com/

  14. Jure Vrscaj Says:

    this one – http://wiki.on-wiki.net has wysiwyg, attachments, latex(formulas), gnuplot(graphs), etc.. cheers.

  15. wan1980 Says:

    Does anyone know what is the best open source Wiki out there

  16. Mark Says:

    MediaWiki is popular because it is fairly easy to set up. I personally am a fan of Oddmuse – but I don’t program.

    –> check out WikiIndex

  17. Educational Technology and Life » Blog Archive » Wikispaces vs. PBwiki Says:

    [...] UPDATE: So I went looking, and here’s a good post on Free hosted wikis: comparison of wiki farms. [...]

  18. SPB Says:

    I second the comment about PBWiki having ‘in-your-face’ ads.

    I just tried out the tool myself, with the intention of setting up an informal collaborative workspace (for a slightly less technical audience, family/social purposes).

    I really did not like the ads there, as they could easily be confused with text, and are rather irritating. But I admit I have not done enough research to determine whether this is the best product out there. Perhaps the creators intended the free account only as a test drive.

    In any case, there -are- other things I really liked about the PBwiki setup, including the instructional videos, the professional look, etc. I would first like to search some more for a wiki out there with less intrusive (or fewer ads), then perhaps come back to PBwiki. Thanks for hosting my opinion.

  19. Educational Technology and Life » Blog Archive » Which Wiki Service is Best for Schools? Says:

    [...] UPDATE: So I went looking, and here’s a good post on Free hosted wikis: comparison of wiki farms. [...]

  20. Miguel Membrado Says:

    Just to let you know about our new wiki farm, Netcipia (http://www.netcipia.com), which provides free public and private wikis (2GB for each wiki). It is a beta version, so if you have any comment or feedback, please let us know :-)

  21. Stacy Reed Says:

    Hi there,

    Just wanted to update you on some changes to the PB Wiki… looks like there are just a few google ads across the top of my published pages. There are now explanations on how to use the syntax and you can delete your wiki now. The free version suits my needs. It’s nice to see these Web 2.0 startups making sensible updates to keep up with their competition.

  22. Aman Says:

    Hi,

    I’ve just joined a large corporate company. The one thing that I thought was lacking was communication between members in the IS department. So I put forward a Wiki idea to the head of department who gladly accepted my proposal. However, what i did not contemplate was how difficult it was to get the right Wiki. I will appreciate any help regarding a free private Wiki at this stage. I’ve searched evrywhere for a free private wiki..but with no luck.
    Is there one that exists?
    I don’t mind getting a paid Wiki. but it has to have top class security features. Please help. Thanks guys!

  23. Pascal Says:

    Hi Aman,

    It’s been a while since my little bit of research on the subject, but have you had a look at the commercial solutions I mentioned: Jotspot, Confluence or Socialtext?

  24. Miguel Membrado Says:

    @Aman

    Hi Aman, as I wrote it in a comment just before, we have launched just 2 month ago a fully free private wiki named Netcipia. You will be able to have 2 GB of space with this wiki, a blog, just will be able to invite as many users you want, each with his own username/password, and create as many pages you want. You will be able also to create as many wikis you want :-) So don’t hesitate to use it and to let me know what’s your feeling about it.

  25. Aman Says:

    Hi Guys,

    Thanks a million for your replies! I am currently giving Netcipia a try. 1 question though are u able to change the skins? I get an error 404…
    any ideas? I’m usin the free version. I want the wiki to represent the company’s intranet, so that the users feel comfortable. Also, the 2gb is that for each Netcipia place that I own, or is it 2gb shared among a number of places that I own.
    Thanks again!!
    Regards,
    Aman

  26. Miguel Membrado Says:

    Hi Aman,

    the skins are not yet configurable. This feature will be available on the final release, not before. The 2GB are for each place owned.

    Best regards

    Miguel

  27. Hosting a wiki « Learning to network Says:

    [...] Just in case anybody (including myself) ever asks me “where should go to host a new, free wiki?” there’s a comparitive review at http://pascal.vanhecke.info/2005/10/30/free-hosted-wikis-comparison-of-wiki-farms/. Ok, so it’s a year old already, but its a start. Thanks to Pascal van Hecke. [...]

  28. Allison Says:

    I am a wiki-newbie. I am looking for a wiki that will not require users to register– I don’t mind giving them a password, but I don’t want them to go to too much trouble to access the wiki. Any suggestions? I have set up an account at wikidot.com, because I think they look great, are easy to use, but they require invitees to register before they can enter the password and edit the wiki. This is not ideal.

  29. Mark Says:

    Hello Allison,

    Check out http://www.wikiindex.org/WikiFarms for your choice of wiki farms. Wiki.com is a new wiki farm and your point is well taken about login to edit. At wiki index you can look around, we identify wikis based on several technical criteria, edit access is one of them.

    Best, Mark

  30. + mzungu’s weblog + » 10 kostenlose Wikis im Web* Says:

    [...] Weitere Links: Liste von Wikifarms in der Wikipedia,  WikiWikiWeb – WikiFarms Liste im c2.com UR-Wiki, Wikifarms Comparsion Blog-Artikel. [...]

  31. Gavin Says:

    I fear that ratings of editthis.info must be downgraded in the light of recent experience. This year has seen at least two major outages — there’s one still in effect as I write — and it seems impossible to find out who’s in charge or whom can be alerted about the outage.

    I have found it a great site, when it’s up. But now we seem to be experiencing so many days when we can’t update our wikis, that you get the impression the creator (Rob Kohr) no longer cares.

    Because I suspect editthis.info is simply going to be shut down one day without warning to any of its free subscribers, I am now wasting a lot of time trying to find a replacement MediaWiki site and worrying about how I am going to transfer the mountain of material I have written on Editthis.info.

  32. Wiki searcher Says:

    I have been looking for a simple WYSIWYG wiki to share non-sensitive information for a barely computer-savvy group of mine. In my last 48 hours of intensive wiki researching, nothing has caught my eye more than pbwiki’s password-only accessing. It is so simple and meets my needs perfectly. EVERY other WYSIWYG wiki I’ve looked at requires registration, with administrator assigned rights. Either that, or the wiki is just wide open to the world for editing. pbwiki’s scheme allows members of my group to easily view the wikis at anytime, from anywhere. Then with a simple enter of a password, they can make changes. I would even be willing to part with a bit of cash for improved service if it wasn’t so outrageously priced.

  33. Arty Says:

    Now that PB Wiki is maturing and getting into full trhrottle i am noticing a lot of good changes! i joined it recently because i found it was realy, REALY easy to join.. no long questionaires no credit card details, or anything else that sounds suspicious. it was more like:
    - whats the name you want (you.pbwiki.com)
    - email, to recieve your unique password
    - DONE! easy as a peanut battuer sandwich, actually, easier!!
    Then i’ve recently realized that all the adds have been dissapearing and a lot of promos have been thrown, like just this month if you want to upgrade to a SUPER-DOOPER, DIAMOND DOUBLE DELUXE, CEOaccount “aka Platinum” which features 5GB of space and at least 15 other features the price is half. HOWEVER that doesnt really appeal to me because i am a user than enjoys FREE browsing, hosting, ect. So im verry with my free account because there arent any popups.. everything is pretty chilled there, and the BEST THING yet!! is that not all the good names are taken! my website is arty.pbwiki.com, HOW good is that!?!?!? no extra symbols or numbers! Aswell, you can make your wiki private, like i did, so only me and my friends see it!
    I hope this info is helpful to all those looking for a wiki to join.

  34. zungu.NET » Blog Archive » 10 kostenlose Wikis im Web* Says:

    [...] Links: Liste von Wikifarms in der Wikipedia, WikiWikiWeb – WikiFarms Liste im c2.com UR-Wiki, Wikifarms Comparsion [...]

  35. Miguel Membrado Says:

    We have released a new version of our free wiki farm Netcipia at http://www.netcipia.com

    You should take a look, it could be very helpful, with a lot of new features and a full wysiwyg editor.

  36. Mark Wiseman Says:

    This link will take you to my opinion on what are currently the best free hosted wikis

  37. Getwist en Gezeur » Blog Archive » Wetpaint commercials Says:

    [...] niet-technische consumenten richt. Zelf nooit gebruikt (ik heb een jaar of 2 geleden eens heel wat wiki-hosters vergeleken en kwam toen bij het meer sobere Wikispaces uit als favoriet), maar ze voeren hun promotie wel op [...]

  38. Ric Says:

    Hi. Great roundup of the options.

    We’re taking another angle on the wiki idea with Swirrl, our upcoming product.

    Please check out our blog at http://blog.swirrl.com

    Thanks.

  39. Cindy Medina Says:

    I have tested lots of hosted wikis and by far these are the best. 1) WetPaint, not only does it have a professional look but all the pages you create are automatically added to your navigation menu which is a rare feature to find, and at page creation you can specify if the page is a main page or a child page of an existing page and the menu structure is created for you. 2) Netcipia.com, I like the fact that you have a blog and a wiki in one site plus you can set your site up to charge a subscription fee to join.

    Both these services are vey easy to use.

  40. Maurice Says:

    There’s also Intodit, which is a free service where people can create groups for their interests the Wiki way. You can share your passion by building pages or starting discussions for your group. An easy to use editing system makes it possible to add text content, photos and widgets such as movies or music clips.

    Best.

  41. Mission Creep | Neil Williams » Blog Archive » Twitter: How do you tweet yours? Says:

    [...] Communities of Practice , my Department’s own Have Your Say tools, and the ever expanding list of free wiki spaces). On first impressions it seems to have a lot going for it, especially being [...]

  42. Ric Says:

    Hi.

    Just wanted to let you know that Swirrl (http://www.swirrl.com), the new wiki that I mentioned in a comment above, is now live and accepting (free) signups. Please check it out and let us know what you think (hello@swirrl.com).

    Thanks.

  43. Jane Says:

    It’s November 2008 and I’m looking around for a recent review. This is the most recent I can find. Has nothing significantly changed in the last couple years?

  44. Cindy Medina Says:

    I have some reviews here: http://web20applications.wetpaint.com/page/Wiki+Services

  45. Roger, Online PR Agency, C&M Says:

    hey – great post, really helpful. i’m going with wikispaces…. the demos look spot on. thanks for the steer – saved me a bunch of time! : )

  46. Anita Says:

    Thanks for this review. It’s quite old though.

    Some newer wiki hosts are:

    http://yourwiki.net

    http://www.wikkii.com

  47. parminder Says:

    I also joined pbWiki and the way in which the adverts seem to overload the page, I was immediately put of it.

    Apart from the ads it was actually a fairly easy one to use, particular the ability to add new pages and how the navigation allowed responded/displayed these pages.

    I have left pb wiki and still looking ofr a better one .

  48. Pascal Says:

    Xwiki will stop free hosting. From my inbox:

    “We are stopping our free hosting service in order to provide our
    customers and users with an improved hosting experience.
    Our new entry-level hosting offering is available for 600€ / year for
    companies and 300€ / year for associations.
    Additionally, we can provide you with professional support and services.
    We’re looking forward getting back in touch with you and receiving your
    instructions about what should happen to your website.

    Our free service will stop on February 13, 2009. Please note that you
    can export your wiki’s data as a XAR from the administration panel.”

  49. Sergiu Dumitriu Says:

    Although XWiki stops the free “professional” hosting on the http://www.xwiki.com farm, there is still the free farm on http://www.myxwiki.org which is more actively maintained and upgraded, but which comes with no uptime guarantees. Still, IMO the new farm is a much better alternative to the old farm, since it gets updated in a few days after each release.

  50. Shivam Vij Says:

    What about Wikia and Bluwiki?

  51. Tom Haws Says:

    The ads at Wikia are unacceptable, but Wikia is run my a corporation.
    Bluwiki is a sole proprietorship, but its ads are more discrete.

  52. Tom Haws Says:

    I just found http://www.yourwiki.net/wiki/YourWiki I am very impressed. Community! Mediawiki! Adsense (no banners)! New!

    I have a hunch this is the one to watch. Small but healthy and active.

  53. Kumar Says:

    I could get ad free wiki from http://thewikiz.com. Semantic wiki farms, Drilldown, Daily sitemap generation, 2 days support for back end maintenance script execution.

  54. Richard Doyle Says:

    Free and ad free wikis using wikipedia markup are available to educators here.

    http://www.mycompwiki.com/index.php/Main_Page

    Mycompwiki is mostly geared toward teachers of writing and design, but all educators are welcome. This includes anybody who just wants to learn wikipedia markup :)

    wiki on!

    mobius

  55. Edu wiki Says:

    In my case everything I need is a sidebar and advanced list pages, lists that are automatically generated basead on dynamic criterias. The mediawiki default category lists is fixed with headings, subheadings and 3 columns, it’s really not a solution for specific scenarios. And templates and transclusion is more than welcome as well.

    Some farms display too many ads that disturbe the wiki’s content, others can’t handle large wikis with either thousands of pages or thousands of people generating database traffic overloads. Other put many features that I wouldn’t need, things like pop ups for making this, rollovers for that, buttons that I never use, etc. And lastly, limits like 100mb and/or 100 pages are really unfriendly.

  56. Todd Says:

    Anyone have a verdict on Netcipia in terms of ease of use?

  57. Using a Wiki for the library | Columns from the Journal of the European Association for Health Information and Libraries Says:

    [...] http://www.pmwiki.org/ [2] http://pascal.vanhecke.info/2005/10/30/free-hosted-wikis-comparison-of-wiki-farms/ [3] http://www.pbworks.com/ [4] http://zbmed.pbworks.com/ [5] [...]