The term wiki is derived from the Hawai’ian term “wikiwiki”, meaning “quick”, because wikis are simple websites that can be edited very quickly by any visitor and have good support for hypertext—or at least, that was the original meaning when the first wiki, called WikiWikiWeb, was created in 1995.

Nowadays, the most famous wiki is Wikipedia, which differs from the original wikis in a number of ways: it tends to be more structured, separating discussion and article pages, it’s focused on objective content rather than collaborative essays, and it’s much stricter about what is included. The original wikis were more like a hybrid between a message board and an ordinary website—like the personal website of a group of people, rather than a single person.

Wiki software is popular even among people that do not run wikis—for example, Obsidian is a popular note-taking software that is essentially a single-user wiki from a technical perspective. This is strictly speaking an abuse of the term, since it was specifically coined in reference to the ease of editing by the public. Somewhat ironically, the rising popularity of wiki software seems to correlated with the decreasing popularity of actual wikis.