We use Wikipedia almost every day of our lives, but how often do we actually stop to think about the history behind it? Who started it, when did this happen, and how did it come to be the fifth most popular website, according to Alexa Internet? We’ve got all the answers to your burning Wiki questions here.
Who Created It
Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger are the two masterminds behind what started out as a simple project. They wanted to create an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Though we all know and use Wikipedia, there were predecessors. Rick Gates made the earliest known proposal for an online encyclopedia in 1993. Richard Stallman proposed the concept of a free-as-in-freedom online encyclopedia (as distinct from mere open source) in December 2000. Wales and Sanger obviously improved on these ideas and created Wikipedia.
A Brief Overview
Wikipedia began as a feeder project for Nupedia, a project Wales already created. Nupedia founded upon the use of highly qualified volunteer contributors and an elaborate multi-step peer review process. Only those considered experts in the field of the articles could contribute information. Even though there were plenty of experts, the writing of content for Nupedia moved slowly, with only 12 articles written during the first year.
Wales and Sanger brainstormed ways to amp up content production. Sanger suggested putting wiki technology on the site. This is a knowledge base website on which users collaboratively modify content and structure directly from the web browser. This became the Wikipedia we all know and use almost everyday.
Shortly after its January release, Wikipedia created International Wikipedias. This included French, German, Catalan, Swedish, and Italian editions, in March through May.
In 2002, Sanger left the project. Wales confirmed that Wikipedia would never run commercial advertising, and the first sister project, Wiktionary. The first formal Manual of Style launched with a whole new team of directors.
- The English Wikipedia hit its 100,000th article in 2003, with Germany coming in at 10,000.
- This is also the year that Wikipedia adopted a logo, and though it has changed over the years, it still has the same general pattern of a jigsaw puzzle on a globe. It suggests that we all fit together even if we live on opposite sides of the world.
- In 2005, Wikipedia became the most popular reference website on the planet.
- The English Wikipedia hit its 750,000th article, and then in 2006 hit it’s one millionth article.
- In 2007, there were five million registered accounts on the site, with 250 languages, making up 7.5 million articles, equalling 1.74 billion words.
- When Michael Jackson died in 2009, the website temporarily crashed due to the sheer amount of people adding to his article.
- Also in 2009, TIME magazine listed Wikipedia as one of the best websites of the year.
- The ten year celebration of Wikipedia came in 2011.
- The site expanded to India in 2011 and held its first India-based conference in Mumbai.
- Fast forward to 2017, Alexa Internet labelled Wikipedia as the fifth most popular website in the world.
- In 2018, Wikipedia began using Artificial Intelligence to create draft articles on overlooked topics.
- It’s 2019, and Alexa Internet still has the site listed as one of the five most popular websites in the world.
Reasons Why We Love Wikipedia
Wikipedia has changed our lives in big ways. Not only is it a great way to get information, but it brings our world together. Humans love to learn, and Wikipedia makes that easier to do. By giving anyone the opportunity to write, edit, and share articles, it shows them that they don’t have to be a scholar, like Wikipedia’s predecessor Nupedia. All you need is a computer and an access to the Internet, and you automatically have the chance to teach someone something.
The history of this valuable site goes on and on. The important thing is that it’s still alive and well today, and it shows no signs of being shut down anytime soon. The English Wikipedia alone has over 5,916,100 articles of any length, and the combined Wikipedias for all other languages greatly exceed the English one in size, which means that there are more than 27 billion words in 40 million articles in 293 languages. That’s something to celebrate.