091- The Net’s Encyclopaedia – 2001

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I have always viewed the mission of Wikipedia to be much bigger than just creating a killer website.
We’re doing that of course, and having a lot of fun doing it, but a big part of what motivates us
is our larger mission to affect the world in a positive way.  Jimmy Wales

Jimmy Wales earned a BA and MA in finance and worked initially on the futures’ market.  1996 Wales and Tim Shell launched Bomis, a website offering adult material.  It included a Babe Report that tracked celebs and models in the adult entertainment business and nekkid.info which was a site offering erotic photos.

Wales had another concept in mind when he later hired Larry Sanger.  Sanger was appointed editor-in-chief to develop Nupedia, a web-based encyclopaedia funded by Bomis.  The notion was to acquire expert articles to be reviewed and published free of charge to the user.  In seeking a way to make progress with Nupedia, Sanger created a wiki site which would allow the creation and editing of interlinked articles online.

Sanger’s Wiki was originally intended as a feeder site to Nupedia, for entries and updates.  It proved so compelling that the whole project was changed to become Wikipedia in January 2001.

The name, its trademark and the operation are owned by the not-for-profit Wikimedia Corporation.  Wales insisted the editorial effort should not be constrained to an expert panel à la Nupedia.  Instead it would be thrown open to all Internet users.  As a result Wikipedia outgrew Nupedia within a few days of its launch.

2001 A dozen and more non-English language Wikipedia were launched.  February 2002 Bomis withdrew its investment and lacking funding himself Sanger left Wikipedia in March 2002.  Nupedia closed in 2003.

Sanger felt Wikipedia had been hijacked by those who were anti-authority and that his desire for expert articles was being overwhelmed.  He suggested that there was, ‘…a certain poisonous social or political atmosphere in the project.’

2006 Sanger launched the Encyclopedia of Earth to be based on expert articles.  He started with fewer than four hundred articles but by late 2010 there were over 7,500.  2007 In March Sanger launched Citizendium to be ‘all that Wikipedia was not’ although by the end of 2010 it had just 15,000 articles, with only 10% editorially approved.

Compare this with the 71 million articles on Wikipedia, in 270 languages, read by 80million monthly.  Provided Its 91,000 active contributors follow the Wikipedia Manual of Style, their contributions are recorded in the page history.  All users can add, edit and provide references and images.  Wikipedia’s 1,750 administrators have special powers to clear up and remove anything that breaches its policies or infringes copyright.

The contributions remain the property of the contributor under either the ‘Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License’ or the ‘GNU Free Documentation License’.  This ensures the pages can be freely distributed and reproduced.

While one cannot assume a Wikipedia article is accurate, this approach airs the issues surrounding a subject well; judicious second sourcing and background research provides clarity.

Wiki was first developed by Ward Cunningham in 1995 when he created a wiki engine for what he called WikiWikiWeb.  His concept was a web application to store all entries in files or a database format so they could be accessed with a browser.  It was inspired by Apple’s HyperCard in that entries are like a stack of cards.  Sanger’s innovation was that they could be edited collaboratively.

The name Wiki resulted from a Hawaiian experience when Cunningham was advised to take the Wiki-Wiki Shuttle between airport terminals; the term wiki means quick – so wiki-wiki must be very quick.

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