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Wikipedia currently has a total of 6,234,030 articles and as of December 12, 2013 had over 17.8 billion words in its English edition. As of December 2013, it had over 2,596,000,000 words. The encyclopedia is 18 years old (started Jan. 2001). It dwarfs the largest traditional English-language encyclopedia, Encyclopædia Britannica online, which in December 2004 had an estimated 120,000 articles and 77 million words.
However, measurements such as these do not take into account article quality and authority. Some commentators have suggested that, because of Wikipedia's collaborative nature and lack of a formal and accountable editing process, for serious research Wikipedia is best used as a first resource, rather than a final resource, something for which an authoritative publication such as Encyclopædia Britannica or other encyclopedias may be more appropriate; however, an investigation by the respected scientific journal Nature which involved experts comparing Wikipedia and Britannica articles found that the average science article in Wikipedia had only one more inaccuracy than Britannica's average of three per article.
That said, many observers and Wikipedia contributors, of which there are currently 23,000 (as of April 2005), expect Wikipedia's quality and length of articles to continue to improve, bringing it closer to the overall excellent standard of traditional encyclopedias. Additionally, work has begun on a formal editorial process for Wikipedia in which an editorial board staffed with experts in various fields will stand behind the accuracy of articles' contents.