For frequently asked questions about Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:FAQ
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) are a series of questions and answers all pertaining to a certain topic. "FAQ" is sometimes pronounced as an acronym, fak, and sometimes as the initialism F.A.Q. (Since it originated in the text medium of USENET, there is no agreed-upon pronunciation.)
The FAQ is an Internet textual tradition originating from periodic summary messages posted to USENET newsgroups in an attempt to reduce the continual reposting of the same basic questions. On USENET, posting questions which are covered in a group's FAQ is often considered inappropriate, as it shows that the poster has not done the expected background reading before asking others to provide answers. Some groups may have multiple FAQs on related topics, or even two or more competing FAQs explaining a topic from different points of view.
A text consisting of questions and their answers is often called a FAQ regardless of whether the questions are actually frequently asked (if asked at all). This is done to capitalize on the fact that the concept of a FAQ has become fairly familiar online. In some cases informative documents not in the traditional FAQ style have also been called FAQs. One large collection of such documents is GameFAQs, where most so-called "FAQs" have nothing in common with the meaning of the name, other than containing a FAQ (and even then, they may not be frequent, or even asked, questions).
The term "FAQ", and the idea behind it, has spread offline as well, even to areas not related to the Net at all. Even bottles of bicycle chain lubricant have been marketed with accompanying leaflets titled as a "FAQ".
There are thousands of FAQs available on many subjects. Several sites catalog them and provide search capabilities -- for example, the Internet FAQ Consortium.
While the name may be recent, the format itself is quite old. For instance, Matthew Hopkins wrote The Discovery of Witches in 1647 in FAQ format. He introduces it as "Certaine Queries answered," ... Many old catechisms are in a question and answer format.
In the WWW, FAQs nowadays tend to be stored in content management systems (CMS), or in simple text files. Since 1998, a high number of specialized software has emerged, mostly written in Perl or PHP. Some of them are integrated in more complex software applications, others, like phpMyFAQ can be both run as a stand-alone-FAQ and integrated into web applications.
See also: FAAQ, fact sheet
Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46