Wikipedia’s 2019 Trends: Entertain us, and maybe we’ll learn something


Wikipedia recently released its Most Viewed Articles for 2019. The report is an interesting window into what’s on people’s minds. It comes as no surprise that death comes in at #2 (deaths in 2019 was a page viewed by nearly 40 million people). Number one?  The Avengers movie page

English-language researchers are not all Hollywood-centric in their curiosity — a list of Bollywood films in 2019 comes in at #21, Ronaldo at #34, Messi at #82, and an article on the 2019 Cricket World Cup at #63. However, it’s American pop-culture, and culture-inspired curiosity, that dominate the top 100.  


Entertain (and Educate) Me!

In fact, more than half of the top 25 articles are related to film, television, and entertainment. Superhero movies, including all three Marvel films released in 2019, got significant traffic, as did three separate Game of Thrones entries. 

More encouragingly to the academic-minded readers, many of the popular articles are historical events and personalities popularized by dramatic reenactments. The lists includes pages on the Chernobyl disaster  (featured in Chernobyl, the HBO mini-series); Queen Elizabeth II and various other members of the royal family (The Crown, a Netflix original); Ted Bundy (Conversations with a Killer on Netflix); Charles Manson (in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood); and the Central Park jogger case (dramatized in the Netflix miniseries When They See Us.)  

These pages (as well as most pop-culture related pages) were overwhelmingly searched on mobile.  


Somebody to Love

Freddie Mercury is #5 on the list; Bohemian Rhapsody, the story of his life and band (Queen, #46), raked in 13 awards in 2019. The actor portraying Mercury, Rami Malek, came in at #50. The box office hit brought in $903 million internationally and was the most watched movie at home in 2019. Comparatively, the movie about Elton John, Rocketman (released in 2019), won only three awards in 2019 and made (only) $195 million globally. Sir Elton comes in at #43, closer to Malek than to Mercury. 

American singer and songwriter Billie Eilish ranks an impressive 10th on the list, and is, in fact, the only living person in the top ten. She is the youngest musician (at only 18) to have a hit song on the Billboard 200 list, and has received so many awards and nominations that these merited a separate page. 


Politicians, Not So Much 

All these cultural icons and entities didn’t leave much room for politicians, most of whom got bumped down the list compared to prior years. President Donald Trump ranked at #20; he was #15 in 2018. Some 3.5% of the current U.S. President’s views came in on December 19, 2019, the day after his impeachment. 

In 2008, former President Barack Obama was #1. In 2019, he was #83. 

The only other living politicians to make the list were Boris Johnson, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Kamala Harris



Get with the Program

Each year, various technical information, protocols, and companies find their way on to the list. In 2019, Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), HTTP 404, Null (SQL),  and F5 Networks all made the list. 

Incidentally, these technical articles, the one on the Bible, and the article on Wikipedia itself, were among the only articles overwhelmingly viewed on desktops. It is understandable that programmers would be working on desktops; conclusions about the other pages are tempting to guess, but harder to draw.  

At the crossroads of pop-culture and tech, YouTube, TikTok, Google, Facebook, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos all made the top 100.

Apple’s absence is duly noted.  


Who Writes This Stuff Anyway?

Who are the people producing Wikipedia’s information? Wikipedia’s army of 38,170,346 registered editors (that’s just English!) in addition to countless edits made anonymously, that’s who. 

While Wikipedia’s articles can be edited by anyone, in reality 1% of the contributors are responsible for roughly 70% of the content. A relatively small number of editors are making significant amounts of edits to new and existing pages. 

Launched in 2001, Wikipedia has quickly become THE open source collaborative project for global knowledge. It is among the world’s leading websites, so it isn’t surprising that its own entry ranks #3.

This is the year that was: We are overwhelmingly curious about popular culture, and luckily, a lot of popular culture makes us curious about the real world, as well.