Similarities and differences between Debian and Wikipedia

I am using both Debian and Wikipedia. And at the time when I discovered them I was fascinated with those projects. General operating system and software distribution is something which we need, as well as the sum of human knowledge is something which we need.

And there are some similarities and some differences between them.


  • Both projects are community based.
  • Both projects are maintained by geeks.
  • English language edition of Wikipedia is about the same size as Debian.
  • Debian is the biggest free software distribution ever, Wikipedia is the biggest encyclopedia ever (as well as free knowledge distribution).
  • Both of them have non-free section. (In Wikipedia case, it is implicit, while in Debian case it is explicit.)
  • Stable releases are not so usable.
  • Because of that, users usually use unstable version.
  • Both projects think to incorporate another one.
  • Both projects have their own binary file formats: Debian has deb, Wikipedia has wiki.
  • Both projects have their own forks (cf. Ubuntu and Wikinfo).
  • Both projects have preferred GUIs: Debian’s is Gnome, Wikipedia’s is Monobook.
  • Debian has package maintainers and Wikipedia has contributors around WikiProjects.


  • While Debian has projects with another kernels (Debian GNU/Hurd, Debian GNU/FreeBSD and so on), it is hard to imagine that Wikipedia would do the same (like Wikipedia/Encarta, Wikipedia/Britannica and so on).
  • Wikipedia stable release is much less usable then Debian. (Surprisingly, Debian stable release may be used for something; while I am not so sure for what it may be used, I am sure that it may be used…)
  • According to the Great Priest RMS, Wikipedia is canonical, while Debian is not.
  • Wikipedia contributors usually don’t use Debian, while Debian contributors usually use Wikipedia.
  • It is not so likely that you will use Wikipedia’s derivate inside of you washing machine, while it is likely that you will use Debian’s derivate.

Feel free to add your similarities and differences as comments and I’ll add them in the next revision of the document (if I like them, of course). And, of course, feel free to make a fork of this document under GFDLv1.2 or any later, CC-BY-SAv3.0 or any later or GPLv3 or any later.

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~ by millosh on August 21, 2007.

7 Responses to “Similarities and differences between Debian and Wikipedia”

  1. Points:

    Wikinfo is hardly a viable fork of WP; Citizendium has much better changes, as I understand it.

    Wiki markup isn’t a binary format. It’s text markup. Fortunately, the binary formats that do get used are generally free (with the usual exception of fair use), just like the ones that accompany Debian packages.

    “Debian has package maintainers and Wikipedia has contributors around WikiProjects.”

    That one strikes me as downright misleading. Package maintainers have to be vetted and tediously registered in Debian, as they have benevolent-dictator status over their packages. This is manifestly not the case for WP articles. WikiProjects would map weakly to the various groups like the security team and whatever strike forces are in operation. And weakly, because none of the project members exercise pre-emptive veto rights on modifications. This point I’d actually put into differences rather than similarities.

    You might also put that Debian/Ubuntu seek to internationalize a specific piece of software, while WP tries to write internationally many different articles on the same subject, if you catch my meaning.

  2. Wikinfo was the first major fork of Wikipedia. They had option “import from Wikipedia” and I think that this made the most of their articles… I may add Citizendium, too.

    Other two comparisons are more jokes then some “truths”. However, it is good that you mentioned that because it is good to put some “but”s because document may mislead public (it is half-truth-half-joke and it would be good to make distinction between them).

    Yes, you are right about internationalization/localization. I’ll add it. I suppose that you are I want to give to you credits inside of the next version.

  3. From my point of view there are other very interesting similarities between OS projects (not only Debian) and Wikipedia. I listed some of them recently in this table:

  4. Interesting… I think that we need one page where all of such things should be gathered (at least as a links).

    Maybe I make that inside of Everything You Always Wantet to Know about Wikipedia…

  5. [...] Similarities and differences between Debian and Wikipedia [...]

  6. [...] between Wikimedian projects and military structure This is not a set of jokes, [...]

  7. very interesting.
    i’m adding in RSS Reader

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