See also WhyWikiWorksNot and WhyWikiWorks and keep in mind that "failures" are not context free. They are failures to meet some expectation (or requirement) in some environment. Unfortunately, everyone is judging success or failure according to their own expectations and environment, sometimes even without making those expectations explicit. It is almost a tautology that Wiki works as designed, even if it doesn't work the way you want it to work. But then, that's why people have created so many clones and variations--to tune the concept for their particular needs.
Wiki fails on several fronts:
Wiki doesn't need versioning.
Wiki sounds cool and original, anarchist and thoughtful at the same time. Utopia come true.
People don't generally screw it up in practice so it doesn't matter that they can.
Wiki page formatting is simpler than HTML and is sufficient. Fewer bells and whistles is a feature.
The only way to get good content onto Wiki is to write some.
Wiki is collaborative. We bring what we have and we put it together. Sometimes we have enough to build something, sometimes we don't.
Wiki doesn't serve everyone's needs well. It may or may not be a good place for any particular individual. -- PhilGoodwin
"Wiki doesn't need versioning."
Because Wiki doesn't have any problems that versioning would solve.
What about VersioningWouldHelpNewbies?
The C2 wiki does have versioning, but only for one previous version. This has sometimes been very helpful. A few wikis have no versioning at all. Different wikis explore different designs. It is usually easier to write a new WikiWikiClone than to convince a Wiki author to change their mind. -- CliffordAdams
See HistoryPages, however.
Those that don't understand history are doomed to repeat it, poorly? Isn't that a reason to have version history? -- MikeStump
No one reads the history.
But its absence damns the few of us that do...
Interestingly enough, I started this page a year ago. It's still here and it's actually gotten better! I'm doing what I think is the "right" thing and making this known.
Of course, I can still spend hours looking for some interesting discussion (and minutes doing so at SlashDot) but at least something has improved.
This technology is simply not appropriate for anything but specialized discussion. It's a fascinating idea that I've revisited a few times due to its novelty.
It's probably FANTASTIC for collaboration-type environments, and I'd now like to write a "documentation engine" for OpenSource software projects that users of the software can contribute to. (Can you say "Open Source Software"?) -- BenjaminSmith
"Wiki page formatting is simpler than HTML and is sufficient. Fewer bells and whistles is a feature."
Yes, but a small subset of HTML could be used instead, as is done on many web boards. It could then retain the simplicity of wikicode, without authors having to learn a new markup language. This has good and bad aspects.
-- matt cook
Relatedly, the wiki generator seems to use an opening and a closing p tag, rather than a break tag. Which leads to strange behavior when trying to make a custom stylesheet.
"Yes, but a small subset of HTML could be used instead..."
Why instead? Allowing both would be easy to implement - and keep everybody happy.
No, that wouldn't keep everyone happy, because the pages are shared. (And even the text on pages is, when we're not in ThreadMode.) So you would have to learn both.
The very fact that this page still exists proves that Wiki is not a failure! If it were, this page would be long gone! Sure, it has some rough edges that may need tweaking depending on how mass-appealing your site it, but for the most part this is a genius way to run a community website.
I've fallen in love with this so much that I've created my own hobby-based Wiki site on the Lord of the Rings miniature game at http://www.jediwars.com/lotr. Long live the community!
I have found in my work that versioning is a necessity. We are using wiki to house the design documentation for a project, and it turns out we change our minds often. Versioning is what allows us to dig up a past thought and bring it back to life. Fortunately, we are using a wiki that maintains a complete version history.
See also: AnnoyingWikiFeatureVote