Wikipedia is expanding in a big way, planning projects which could spell the end for disc-based versions of Encyclopaedia Britannica and the like. With grand plans to eventually make hundreds of thousands - possibly millions - of Wikipedia articles available offline on discs and as downloads and books, paying £50 for a rival DVD-ROM product could soon be off the cards completely.

The expansion of Wikipedia is not about financial gain, but about spreading free knowledge to all corners of the globe. That's what Professor Martin Walker of the Wikipedia Foundation said in an interview with tech.co.uk yesterday.

As such, the Foundation will not be charging anything more than nominal fees for disc and book-based versions.

And while the death of commercial encyclopaedias like Britannica and Encarta is by no means the intention, it's a very possible side effect. Wikipedia's big masterplan is to make its massive 1.7 million-strong article base available for free to everyone in the world, not just those with broadband internet access.

Britannica is no Wikipedia

Although Wikipedia has its critics - some say the articles are not as accurate as those in Britannica - Walker says this is not the case.

"The thing with Britannica is that while the disc version has 100,000 articles, many of them are not very detailed at all. They're not thorough, they're not comprehensive. They're not long enough and they have no referencing.

"I'd say that if you were to submit a large majority of Britannic articles for inclusion on Wikipedia they'd be immediately rejected on these grounds."

You can read more about Wikipedia's stunning plans for the future, and what it has in store, in our Wikipedia feature .