Clicking on the first link in the main text of an English Wikipedia article, and then repeating the process for subsequent articles, usually leads to the Philosophy article. In February 2016, this was true for 97% of all articles in Wikipedia, an increase from 94.52% in 2011. The remaining articles lead to an article without any outgoing wikilinks, to pages that do not exist, or get stuck in loops.
There have been some theories on this phenomenon, with the most prevalent being the tendency for Wikipedia pages to move up a "classification chain". According to this theory, the Wikipedia Manual of Style guidelines on how to write the lead section of an article recommend that articles begin by defining the topic of the article. A consequence of this style is that the first sentence of an article is almost always a definitional statement, a direct answer to the question "what is [the subject]?"
Following the chain consists of:
- Clicking on the first non-parenthesized, non-italicized link
- Ignoring external links, links to the current page, or red links (links to non-existent pages)
- Stopping when reaching "Philosophy", a page with no links or a page that does not exist, or when a loop occurs
The phenomenon has been known since at least May 26, 2008, when an earlier version of this page was created by user Mark J. Two days later, it was mentioned in episode 50 of the podcast Wikipedia Weekly, which may have been its first public mention.
- Daniel Lamprecht, Dimitar Dimitrov, Denis Helic and Markus Strohmaier, "Evaluating and Improving Navigability of Wikipedia: A Comparative Study of Eight Language Editions", ACM, 2016. Retrieved March 17, 2021
- "Wikipedia:Getting to Philosophy". wikipedia.org.
- "Wikipedia Weekly — Episode 50: Wikipedia Story". huffduffer.com.
- A web page that renders links graphically in a tree (detects loops and uses the second link to always complete the process)
- Wikilope is a command line utility and Node.js library that can do various queries on Wikipedia pages, including the get to "Philosophy" effect.
- Getting to Philosophy, a Node.js library that allows to query any Wikipedia page and get the different pages names that will get to "Philosophy" (also avoids loops and use the second link)
- YouTube video demonstrating this observation, which starts with a random article and eventually ends up in the article Philosophy
- Analysis showing that over 95% of Wikipedia articles get to Philosophy
- The alt-text of a cartoon at xkcd notes this phenomenon (see tooltip)
- WikiLoopr, a tool designed to find loops when following the first link in articles.
- "The Only Way Is Essex + Wikipedia = philosophy". The Guardian.
- Amy Lee (2011-11-14). "All Wikipedia Ends In Philosophy, Literally". The Huffington Post.
- Wikipedia Pages That Don't Lead to Philosophy an in-progress (unfinished) database of Wikipedia page loops that result in a page not leading to philosophy.
- Six Degrees of Wikipedia, an interactive tool to find paths between articles.
- Cultural Structures of Knowledge from Wikipedia Networks of First Links, a study that looks at how this phenomenon varies across languages.