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Wikipedia Adds Pop-Up Page Previews So You Can Avoid Plunging Deep Into A Rabbit Hole

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Wikipedia knows full well that it's far too easy to go down internet rabbit holes, especially on its own site. One minute they're reading about an episode of The Walking Dead, then several hours later they're learning about the 2007 Southeast Asian Games.

So, Wikipedia is adding a neat little feature called page previews. When a user hovers over a hyperlink within a Wikipedia page, they'll see a preview article about that topic. No need to open the full page in a separate tab, especially if the preview alone supplies enough information already.

What's An Internet Rabbit Hole?

Wikipedia rabbit hole situations happen often because articles almost always need contextualization. If, for example, a user is reading about quasars, then they'd also need to learn more about supermassive black holes, accretion disk, X-ray wavelengths, and a whole bunch of other ultra-scientific information that ties into the knowledge fabric of quasars. The same goes for any other topic, be it about arts, culture, medicine, or technology.

Sometimes, though, a more amusing thing happens. When a user gets bored with an article or gets distracted with other knowledge, they often end up in places topically removed from the subject they began with. That's why one moment you might be reading about the band U2, then the next you're deep in the rabbit hole, somehow having ended up in the page for Costa Rica, learning about the country's recognized regional languages‎. This type of rabbit hole, while interesting, isn't particularly useful or productive, and it's often the culprit of procrastination.

Wikipedia Page Previews

With page previews, users just get an image a short description of the subject, enough to contextualize what they're currently reading. If for some reason what it supplies isn't enough, a user can simply click the link to read beyond the preview.

Extensive A/B testing was conducted to create the feature, according to Wikimedia, and they found that most users were fine with it. It appears the feature is already helping people avoid rabbit holes, but at the cost of less overall page views for Wikipedia.

"Our testing shows that the feature makes it easier and more efficient for Wikipedia readers to interact with our content and get more context about a topic on Wikipedia," the site writes in a blog post.

Wikimedia says the reason it's rolling out page previews is to diminish the "cost of exploration" every time a user sees a blue link and thinks of clicking it. It enables them to satisfy their curiosity about unfamiliar topics "without the burden of opening a new page and navigating back to the original."

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