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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. Todd Says:

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

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