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Go from Android to Zaphod in four short steps, via Wikipathia

by Jen Aprahamian

One of the more entertaining (and educational!) quirks of the information age is the "Wikipedia rabbit hole" – a sort of accidental path that one falls into while browsing Wikipedia, with an ultimate endpoint light years away from the originally sought-out topic. Sound familiar? Well, hello there, fellow Wikipedia wanderer. Meet your new friend, Wikipathia.

Wikipathia randomly selects two endpoints – Application Software and Suggestion, for example – and the game is to find the shortest possible path between these two points solely by clicking on links contained within each entry. With each click, a new list of links (the links contained within that particular entry, stripped down and free of article text) appears, and the path increments by one. Once you've reached the goal endpoint, your path is revealed, and you can choose to visit any of the contained entries, in full form, in your browser (don't even pretend that you won't be tempted to read up on some of those topics after playing!).

The concept is fun for wiki fans and obsessive researchers, but one thing that's a bit of a letdown is the lack of comparison (to your own scores, to the actual shortest path length or to friends). A more fully formed social component might make this app more engaging – I would enjoy challenging my friends to a pathfinding match, rather than just share my recent paths on Twitter. I would also like to see the additional challenge of not being able to "step back" in the path (almost like filling out a crossword puzzle in pen!).

All things considered, though, Wikipathia makes for an entertaining way to satisfy your curiosity and test your wiki navigation skills. You'll have to excuse me, now . . . I'm off to find the shortest path from Review to Download.

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