2020’s Most Popular Wikipedia Pages: Pandemics, Politics, and Parasite

2020’s Most Popular Wikipedia Pages: Pandemics, Politics, and Parasite
Photo: Lionel Bonaventure, Getty Images

When I’m using Wikipedia, I’m usually spending hours getting lost in the site’s bottomless pit of random factoids for hours on end. Apparently, though, this puts me in the minority. If you look at the most popular pages on the platform from this year, you’re most likely to find pages discussing politics or the global pandemic, and little else.

In a Monday blog post, Wikimedia Foundation staffer Ed Erhart detailed the 25 Wikipedia pages that gleaned the most eyeballs throughout all of 2020. Of the list, seven of these pages were related to the COVID-19 pandemic in some way. All told, Erhart noted that these pages — which sport titles like “Coronavirus disease 2019” and just plain “Coronavirus” — racked up 225 million views between them. In fact, the most-read article this year, per Erhart’s list, was this page (titled “COVID-19 pandemic”) that racked up over 83 million views on its own. Naturally, readers looking into the obvious historic parallel also boosted the article on the Spanish flu to the number 11 spot.

The second most read article? Donald Trump’s, which Erhart says garnered about 55.5 million views. The pages for Kamala Harris and Joe Biden followed in the fourth and fifth spot, right after this page detailing the list of deaths in 2020. (Deaths likely played a huge part in the rankings this year; outside the devastating pandemic itself, Kobe Bryant, Chadwick Boseman, and Sushant Singh Rajput — who died in a plane crash, of colon cancer, and by suicide, respectively — all made the top 25 this year.)

“This is my sixth annual post sharing the list of Wikipedia’s most popular articles of the year” Erhart wrote. “And, as with most things this year, the list was very different.”

As he put it, these lists have historically been a reflection on how much Wikipedians love geeking out over movies, music, and everything pop culture adjacent. In 2019, the top spot went to Avengers: Endgame, and the seventh spot went to Joker. Billie Eilish’s page got its own spot further down the list, as did two separate pages describing Game of Thrones (the whole series) and Game of Thrones (just the 8th season). Similar sorts of patterns emerge in the lists from 2018 and 2017.

Erhart explained that while pop culture wasn’t completely absent from our minds this year, it certainly took a backseat. Case in point: Billie Eilish moved from the ninth most popular page to the thirty second. The downgrade is fitting for a year that postponed countless concerts and closed countless venues. Personally, seeing this slow decay has made it that much harder to actually embrace the limited amount of albums and movies that did come out this year. The only piece of pop culture to garner enough views to make Erhart’s list — Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite — hit theatres in May of last year.

Wikipedia isn’t only a place where you can read full episode recaps for Keeping Up With The Kardashians or learn about the Straw Hat Riots of 1922; it’s also a place that promises some degree of objective fact. In a year where readers were bombarded with spin and misinformation at every turn, and popular platforms like Facebook half-assed any attempt at limiting this sort of garbage, I know that I found Wikipedia’s transparent approach to handling election-related content felt like a breath of fresh air. And it looks like a ton of other people did, too.

The full list is reproduced below:

  1. COVID-19 pandemic, 83,040,504
  2. Donald Trump, 55,472,791
  3. Deaths in 2020, 42,262,147*
  4. Kamala Harris, 38,319,706
  5. Joe Biden, 34,281,120
  6. Coronavirus, 32,957,565
  7. Kobe Bryant, 32,863,656
  8. COVID-19 pandemic by country and territory, 28,575,982
  9. 2020 United States presidential election, 24,313,110
  10. Elizabeth II, 24,147,675
  11. Spanish flu, 22,239,766
  12. Elon Musk, 21,459,625
  13. 2016 United States presidential election, 21,240,023
  14. Michael Jordan, 20,745,473
  15. Coronavirus disease 2019, 20,492,847
  16. COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, 19,266,908
  17. Sushant Singh Rajput, 18,631,858
  18. COVID-19 pandemic in India, 18,598,599
  19. QAnon, 18,070,938
  20. Parasite (2019 film), 17,539,085
  21. Chadwick Boseman, 17,060,572
  22. United States, 16,959,947
  23. YouTube, 15,044,125
  24. United States Electoral College, 14,819,264
  25. Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, 14,763,684