History of Wikipedia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- This article covers the history of Wikipedia. For information on page history within Wikipedia, see Help:Page history.
Wikipedia, a project to produce a free content encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone, formally began on 15 January 2001 as a complement to the similar, but expert-written, Nupedia project. It has since replaced Nupedia, growing to become a large global project. As of 2007, it includes millions of articles and pages worldwide, and content from hundreds of thousands of contributors.
The concept of gathering all of the world's knowledge in a single place goes back to the ancient Library of Alexandria and Pergamon, but the modern concept of a general purpose, widely distributed, printed encyclopedia dates from shortly before Denis Diderot and the 18th century encyclopedists. The idea of using automated machinery beyond the printing press to build a more useful encyclopedia can be traced to H. G. Wells' short story World Brain (1937) and Vannevar Bush's future vision of the microfilm based Memex in As We May Think (1945). Another milestone was Ted Nelson's Project Xanadu in 1960.
With the development of the web, many people attempted to develop Internet encyclopedia projects. Free software exponent Richard Stallman described the usefulness of a "Free Universal Encyclopedia and Learning Resource" in 1999. He described Wikipedia's formation as "exciting news" and his Free Software Foundation encourages people "to visit and contribute to the site". One never-realized predecessor was the Interpedia, which Robert McHenry has linked conceptually to Wikipedia.
 Formulation of the idea
Wikipedia was founded as a feeder project for Nupedia, an earlier (now defunct) project founded by Jimmy Wales to produce a free encyclopedia. Nupedia had an elaborate multi-step peer review process, and required highly qualified contributors. The writing of articles was slow throughout 2000, the first year that project was online, despite having a mailing-list of interested editors and a full-time editor-in-chief, Larry Sanger.
During Nupedia's first year, Wales and Sanger discussed various ways to supplement Nupedia with a more open, complementary project. Wales has claimed that Jeremy Rosenfeld, a Bomis employee, introduced him to the concept of a wiki. Independently, Ben Kovitz, a computer programmer and regular on Ward Cunningham's wiki (the WikiWikiWeb), introduced Sanger to wikis over dinner on January 2, 2001. Sanger thought a wiki would be a good platform to use, and proposed on the Nupedia mailing list that a UseModWiki (then v. 0.90) be set up as a "feeder" project for Nupedia. Under the subject "Let's make a wiki", he wrote:
|“||No, this is not an indecent proposal. It's an idea to add a little feature to Nupedia. Jimmy Wales thinks that many people might find the idea objectionable, but I think not. (…) As to Nupedia's use of a wiki, this is the ULTIMATE "open" and simple format for developing content. We have occasionally bandied about ideas for simpler, more open projects to either replace or supplement Nupedia. It seems to me wikis can be implemented practically instantly, need very little maintenance, and in general are very low-risk. They're also a potentially great source for content. So there's little downside, as far as I can determine.||”|
 Beginnings of a new project
There was considerable resistance on the part of Nupedia's editors and reviewers to the idea of associating Nupedia with a wiki-style website. Sanger suggested giving the new project its own name, Wikipedia, and Wikipedia was soon launched on its own domain, wikipedia.com, on January 15.
The bandwidth and Server (located in San Diego) used for these projects were donated by Bomis. Many current and past Bomis employees have contributed some content to the encyclopedia; notably Tim Shell, co-founder and current CEO of Bomis, and programmer Jason Richey.
The project received many new participants after being mentioned three times on the Slashdot website — two minor mentions in March 2001. It then received a prominent pointer to a story on the community-edited technology and culture website Kuro5hin on July 25. Between these relatively rapid influxes of traffic, there has been a steady stream of traffic from other sources, especially Google, which alone sent hundreds of new visitors to the site every day. Its first major mainstream media coverage was in the New York Times on September 20, 2001.
The project passed 1,000 articles around February 12, 2001, and 10,000 articles around September 7. In the first year of its existence, over 20,000 encyclopedia entries were created — a rate of over 1,500 articles per month. On August 30, 2002, the article count reached 40,000. The rate of growth has more or less steadily increased since the inception of the project, except for a few software- and hardware-induced slow-downs.
 International expansion
Early in Wikipedia's development, it began to expand internationally. The first domain reserved for a non-English Wikipedia was deutsche.wikipedia.com (on 16 March 2001), followed after some minutes by the Catalan, for about two months the latter was the only one with articles in a non-English language. The first reference of the French Wikipedia is from 23 March and then in May 2001 it followed a wave of new language versions in Chinese, Dutch, Esperanto, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish. They were soon joined by Arabic and Hungarian In September, a further commitment to the multilingual provision of Wikipedia was made. At the end of the year, when international statistics first began to be logged, Afrikaans, Norwegian, and Serbian versions were announced.
 Continuing growth
Until January 2002, Sanger was employed by Bomis as editor-in-chief of Nupedia and the unofficial leader of Wikipedia. Funding ran out, however, and Sanger resigned from both positions in March 2002.
- In January 2002, "Phase II" of the wiki software powering Wikipedia was introduced, replacing the older UseModWiki. Written specifically for the project by Magnus Manske, it included a PHP wiki engine.
- In February 2002, most participants of the Spanish Wikipedia broke away to establish the Enciclopedia Libre. The project is occasionally visited by "vandals" who remove valid articles or post inappropriate content. While such vandalism is generally quickly reverted, the project's main page was, for a time, subjected to repeated vandalism. This led to the protection of the page so that it could only be changed by administrators.
- On April 4, 2002 Brilliant Prose, since renamed to Featured Articles, was moved to the Wikipedia Namespace from the article namespace.
- In July 2002, a major rewrite of the software powering Wikipedia went live; dubbed "Phase III", it replaced the older "Phase II" version, and became MediaWiki. It was written by Lee Daniel Crocker in response to the increasing demands of the growing project.
- In August 2002, shortly after Jimmy Wales announced that he would never run commercial advertisements on Wikipedia, the URL of Wikipedia was changed from wikipedia.com to wikipedia.org (see: .com and .org).
- In the same summer, policy and style issues were clarified with the creation of the Manual of Style, along with a number of other policies and guidelines.
- In October 2002, Derek Ramsey started to use a "bot", or program, to add a large number of articles about United States towns; these articles were automatically generated from U.S. census data. Occasionally, similar bots had been used before for other topics. These articles were generally well received, but some users criticized them for their uniformity and generally machine-like writing style (for example, see this version of a town article).
- In December 2002, the first sister project, Wiktionary, was created; aiming to produce a dictionary and thesaurus of the words in all languages. It uses the same software as Wikipedia.
- In January 2003, support for mathematical formulas in TeX was added. The code was contributed by Tomasz Wegrzanowski.
- On January 22, 2003, the English Wikipedia was again slashdotted after having reached the 100,000 article milestone. Two days later, the German language Wikipedia, the largest non-English version, passed the 10,000 article mark.
- On June 20, 2003, the Wikimedia Foundation was founded. On the same day "Wikiquote" was created. A month later, "Wikibooks" was launched.
- Around October 15, 2003, the current Wikipedia logo was installed. The logo concept was selected by a voting process, which was followed by a revision process to select the best variant. The final selection was created by David Friedland based on a logo design and concept created by Paul Stansifer.
- On October 28, 2003, the first "real" meeting of Wikipedians happened in Munich. Many cities followed suit, and soon a number of regular Wikipedian get-togethers were established around the world. Several Internet communities, including one on the popular blog website LiveJournal, have also sprung up since.
- After 6 December 2003, Wikipedia administrators could change the text of certain parts of MediaWiki's interface, such as the message shown to blocked users, by editing the pages in a special "MediaWiki namespace".
- In January 2004, Wikipedia passed the 200,000 article milestone in English and reached 450,000 articles for both English and non-English wikis. The next month, the combined article count of the English and non-English wikis reached 500,000.
- On February 12, 2004, server operations were moved from San Diego, California to Tampa, Florida. 
- On February 23, 2004 a coordinated new look for the Main Page appeared at 19:46 UTC. Hand-chosen entries for the Daily Featured Article, Anniversaries, In the News, and Did You Know rounded out the new look.
- On April 20, 2004, the article count of the English wiki reached 250,000.
- On May 29, 2004, all the various Wikiprojects were updated to a new version of MediaWiki, the software that runs the various Wikiprojects.
- On May 30, 2004, the first instances of "categorization" entries appeared. Category schemes, like Recent Changes and Edit This Page, had existed from the founding of Wikipedia. However, Larry Sanger had viewed the schemes as lists, and even hand-entered articles, whereas the categorization effort centered on individual categorization entries in each article of the encyclopedia, as part of a larger automatic categorization of the articles of the encyclopedia.
- On June 2, 2004, the People's Republic of China blocked the access to the Chinese Wikipedia in mainland China. A few days later, all language Wikipedias were blocked. The ban was lifted on June 17.
- After 3 June 2004, administrators could edit the style of the interface by changing the CSS in the monobook stylesheet at MediaWiki:Monobook.css.
- On July 7, 2004, the article count of the English wiki reached 300,000.
- From July 10 to August 30, 2004 the and formerly on the Main Page were replaced by links to overviews. On August 27, 2004 the Community Portal was started, to serve as a focus for community efforts. These were previously accomplished on an informal basis, by individual queries of the Recent Changes, in wiki style, as ad-hoc collaborations between like-minded editors.
- On September 20, 2004, Wikipedia reached one million articles in over 105 languages, and received a flurry of related attention in the press. The one millionth article was published in the Hebrew language Wikipedia, and discusses the flag of Kazakhstan.
- On November 20, 2004, the article count of the English Wikipedia reached 400,000.
- On January 10, 2005, the multilingual portal at www.wikipedia.org was set up, replacing a redirect to the English-language Wikipedia.
- On February 5, 2005, the first "portal", the Biology Portal, was created.
- A fundraiser was held from February 18, 2005 to March 1, 2005, raising $94,000 – $21,000 more than expected.
- On March 18, 2005, Wikipedia passed the 500,000 article milestone in English.
- In May 2005, Wikipedia became the most popular reference website on the Internet according to traffic monitoring company Hitwise, relegating Dictionary.com to second place.
- On 7 June 2005 at 3:00AM Eastern Standard Time the bulk of the Wikimedia servers were moved to a new facility across the street. All Wikimedia projects were down during this time.
- On July 16, 2005, the English Wikipedia began the practice of including the day's "featured pictures" on the Main Page.
- On September 29, 2005, the English Wikipedia passed the 750,000 article mark.
- As of Saturday, October 15, 2005, there were over 500,000 accounts registered on English Wikipedia.
- On October 20, 2005, direct access to all the Wikipedia sites was blocked in most areas of mainland China.
- In November 2005, the "CheckUser" feature was introduced to counter abuse, allowing a handful of trusted users to view the IP address from which a user is editing.
 Seigenthaler incident
On November 29, 2005, John Seigenthaler Sr. wrote an op-ed in USA Today to criticize a biography written about him at Wikipedia. Earlier versions of the Wikipedia entry, online from May through September of that year, had contained incorrect statements about Seigenthaler, and this information also appeared on Wikipedia syndicate sites Reference.com and Answers.com. Specifically the statement, "For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven." Seigenthaler described the statements, which had been written by an anonymous Wikipedia user, as "Internet character assassination". Seigenthaler did not use the collaborative editing feature of Wikipedia to correct the misstatement himself. Seigenthaler said "I am interested in letting many people know that Wikipedia is a flawed and irresponsible research tool." He also equated Wikipedia to gossip. In an Interview with a CNN reporter, the reporter also expressed concern about her own biography which she said portrayed her as she did not wish to be portrayed. The author of the hoax, Brian Chase, was discovered in December 2005. He subsequently resigned from his job and apologized in person to Seigenthaler. Chase was traced through the IP address of the 26 May post, which led to his employer's computer system. The controversy brought Wikipedia an unprecedented level of (mainly negative) publicity in major media outlets. Wikipedia's share of internet page views as recorded by Alexa doubled in less than two months after the publication of the editorial, which was well above the average rate of growth through 2005.
- On December 5, 2005, creating a user account became a requirement for the creation of new pages on the English Wikipedia.
 Nature study
On December 14, 2005, the scientific journal Nature published the results of a comparative review between the Britannica and the Wikipedia Encyclopedias concerning scientific articles. This, being the first comparative review concerning Wikipedia of its kind, was done by scientific experts in their field. They were given articles about the same subject, one from Britannica, and one from Wikipedia. Scientists did not know the source, and were told to look for factual errors, critical omissions, and misleading statements. After examining 42 articles in both the encyclopedias, Nature obtained the following results:
- Britannica: 123 errors, an average of 2.92 by article
- Wikipedia: 162 errors, an average of 3.86 by article.
The data shows that, at least in science, Wikipedia has comparable accuracy to other modern encyclopedias. However, some of the Wikipedia articles were found to be "poorly structured and confusing". In March, 2006, Britannica criticised the study as inaccurate, stating "Almost everything about the journal’s investigation, from the criteria for identifying inaccuracies to the discrepancy between the article text and its headline, was wrong and misleading." and that their "162 errors" was not. Nature responded promptly, addressing Britannica's complaints. Nature refused to make any apologies, supporting the effectiveness and actuality of its study.
- On December 22, 2005, a "semi-protection" policy was implemented in Wikipedia's MediaWiki software.
- On January 6, the Q4 2005 fundraiser concluded, raising a total of just over $390,000.
- On January 10, Wikipedia became a registered trademark of Wikimedia Foundation.
- On February 28, the one-millionth user account was registered for the English language edition.
- On March 1, the English language Wikipedia passed the 1,000,000 article mark, with Jordanhill railway station being announced on the Main Page as the milestone article
- On March 19, following a vote, the Main Page of the English language Wikipedia featured its first redesign in nearly two years.
- On April 4, the first CD selection in English was published as a free download (see 2006 Wikipedia CD Selection).
- In May 2006, a new "oversight" feature was introduced on the English Wikipedia, allowing a handful of trusted users to permanently erase revisions containing copyright infringements or libellous or personal information from a page's history. (Edits deleted by administrators remain visible to other administrators and can be un-deleted).
- On June 8, the English language Wikipedia passed the 1,000 featured article mark, with Iranian peoples.
- On November 24, the English language Wikipedia passed the 1,500,000 article mark, with Kanab ambersnail being announced on the Main Page as the milestone article.
 Access in Mainland China
The People's Republic of China and internet service providers in Mainland China have adopted a practice of blocking contentious Web sites in mainland China, and Wikimedia sites have been blocked at least three times in its history. Currently, Wikimedia appears to be undergoing the third block in its history.
Possibly related to this, on May 31 an article from the IDG News Service was published, discussing the Chinese Wikipedia's treatment of the protests. The Chinese Wikipedia also has articles related to Taiwanese independence, written by contributors from Taiwan and elsewhere. A few days after the initial block of Chinese Wikipedia, all Wikimedia sites were blocked in Mainland China. In response to the blocks, two administrators prepared an appeal to lift the block and asked their regional internet service provider to submit it. All Wikimedia sites were unblocked between June 17 and June 21, 2004.
The first block had an effect on the vitality of Chinese Wikipedia, which suffered sharp dips in various indicators such as the number of new users, the number of new articles, and the number of edits. In some cases, it took anywhere from six to twelve months in order to recover to the levels of May 2004.
The second and less serious outage lasted between September 23 and September 27, 2004. During this four day period, access to Wikipedia was erratic or unavailable to some users in mainland China — this block was not comprehensive and some users in mainland China were never affected. The exact reason for the block is unknown, but it may have been linked with the closing down of YTHT BBS, a popular Peking University-based BBS that was shut down a few weeks earlier for hosting overtly radical political discussions. Refugees from the BBS had arrived en masse on Chinese Wikipedia. Chinese Wikipedians once again prepared a written appeal to regional ISPs, but the block was lifted before the appeal was actually sent out; the reasons of which are, once again, a mystery.
The third block began on October 19, 2005, and seems to have ended around mid October, 2006. For the first few days the English Wikipedia seems to have been unblocked in most provinces in China, while users are still unable to access the Chinese version in certain provinces, varying by ISP. By November, both versions seemed to be accessible in all provinces and by all ISPs. The end to the block came about a year after it began, and also coincided with the Chinese Wikipedia's 100,000th article milestone. However, both the Chinese and English Wikipedias were re-blocked on November 17.
 Access in Iran
 Viability in other media
The German Wikipedia's releases on CDs and DVDs helped prove that a market for Wikimedia products exists. Within the first ten days, it presold 10,000 copies, of which 8,000 were on Amazon.de. Sales of the product, issued by Directmedia Publishing GmbH of Berlin, were certainly helped by the €9.90 price.
Directmedia also announced plans to print the German Wikipedia in its entirety, in 100 volumes of 800 pages each. Publication was due to begin in October 2006, and finish in 2010. In March 2006, however, this project was called off.
A free software project has also been launched to make a static version of Wikipedia available for use on iPods. The "Encyclopodia" project was started around March 2006 and can currently be used on 1st to 4th generation iPods.
 Authorship of the Wikipedia concept
While there is evidence that Sanger called himself co-founder, along with Wales, as early as 2001, and is referred to as such in early Wikipedia press releases and Wikipedia articles, and in a September 2001 New York Times article for which both were interviewed, Wales later began disputing this, stating, "He used to work for me [...] I don't agree with calling him a co-founder, but he likes the title." There is no evidence from before 2004 of Wales disputing Sanger's status as co-founder.
Sanger concedes that it was Wales alone who conceived of an encyclopedia to which non-experts could contribute, i.e. Wikipedia. "To be clear, the idea of an open source, collaborative encyclopedia, open to contribution by ordinary people, was entirely Jimmy's, not mine" (emphasis in original text). However, Sanger maintains that it was he who brought the wiki concept to Wales and suggested it be applied to Nupedia and that, after some initial skepticism, Wales agreed to try it. Wales has claimed that one Jeremy Rosenfeld first suggested the idea of a wiki to him, though he claimed earlier, in October 2001, that "Larry had the idea to use Wiki software." Sanger also maintains that he "came up with the name 'Wikipedia', a silly name for what was at first a very silly project." In review, Larry Sanger conceived of the wiki-based encyclopedia as a strategic solution to Nupedia's inefficiency problems, and spearheaded and pursued the project as its leader in its first year. Moreover, Sanger did most of the early work in formulating policies and building up the community, for which he was paid by Wales (or his company, Bomis) until 2002. Today, Wales emphasizes this employee relation and the fact that he was therefore the ultimate authority, suggesting that this makes him the sole "founder". Further, Sanger has provided evidence that he is the co-founder of Wikipedia, by referencing earlier versions of Wikipedia pages, citing press releases from Wikipedia in the years of 2002 - 2004, and asserting that media coverage articles stated Wales and Sanger are the co-founders.
 See also
- ^ a b David Mehegan. "Bias, sabotage haunt Wikipedia's free world", Boston Globe, February 12, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-03-19.
- ^ Larry Sanger. "Let's make a wiki", Internet Archive poiwa[e9dwir]iewrf9iwa9eif, January 10, 2001.
- ^ "Wikipedia:Wikipedia's oldest articles", Wikipedia. Retrieved on 2007-01-30.
- ^ Nupedia and Project Gutenberg Directors Answer March 5 2001
- ^ Everything2 Hits One Million Nodes March 29 2001
- ^ Britannica or Nupedia? The Future of Free Encyclopedias July 25 2001
- ^ "Fact driven? Collegial? This site wants you", New York Times, September 20, 2001
- ^ Alternative language wikipedias
- ^ History of the Catalan Homepage
- ^ Multilingual monthly statistics
- ^ First edition in the Catalan Wikipedia
- ^ French page where they say it
- ^ Wikipedia:Announcements May 2001
- ^ International_Wikipedia
- ^ Wikipedia Announcements September 2001
- ^ International wikipedias statistics
- ^ "Wikipedia:Featured articles", Wikipedia. Retrieved on 2007-01-30.
- ^ First substantial edit to Wikipedia:Manual of Style, Wikipedia (August 23, 2002). Retrieved on 2007-01-30.
- ^ International logo vote/Finalists. Meta-Wiki. Wikimedia. Retrieved on 2006-07-08.
- ^ Server swapping soon. Retrieved on 2007-02-10.
- ^ "Wikipedia:Categorization", Wikipedia. Retrieved on 2007-01-30.
- ^ "Wikipedia:Community Portal", Wikipedia. Retrieved on 2007-01-30.
- ^ One million Wikipedia articles
- ^ "Portal:Biology", English Wikipedia. Retrieved on 2007-01-31.
- ^ "Fund drives/2005/Q1", Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved on 2007-01-25.
- ^ "CheckUser policy", Meta-Wiki. Retrieved on 2007-01-25.
- ^ wikinews:Author of Wikipedia character assassination takes responsibility
- ^ "Page creation restrictions", Wikipedia Signpost / English Wikipedia. Retrieved on 2007-01-31.
- ^ Internet encyclopaedias go head to head
- ^ The (Nature) peer review
- ^ Giles, Jim (December 2005). "Internet encyclopaedias go head to head". Nature. Retrieved on 2006-07-16.
- ^ Britannica: Fatally Flawed. Refuting the recent study on encyclopedic accuracy by the journal Nature (PDF)
- ^ Nature's responses to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Nature (23 March 2006). Retrieved on 2007-01-25.
- ^ "Semi-protection policy", Wikipedia Signpost / English Wikipedia. Retrieved on 2007-01-30.
- ^ "Fund drives/2005/Q4", Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved on 2007-01-25.
- ^ Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2006-01-16/Trademark registered. Wikipedia (2006-01-16). Retrieved on 2007-01-14.
- ^ "English Wikipedia has over 1 Million Registered Users", Wikinews, 2006-02-28. Retrieved on 2007-01-14.
- ^ a b While this article was announced as the milestone on the Main Page, multiple articles qualified due to the continuous creation and deletion of pages on the site.
- ^ A Schools Global Citizen Resource from SOS Children
- ^ Wikimedia Foundation: English Wikipedia Announces Thousandth Featured Article
- ^ Chinese Build Free Net Encyclopedia
- ^ Chart: Wikipedia access in China
- ^ Chinese Wikipedia now fully unblocked?
- ^ Friend in high place unblocks Wikipedia, Fortune Magazine
- ^ Wikipedia blocked again in China, CNN.com, 17 November 2006.
- ^ Encyclopodia site
- ^ James Niccolai, Wikipedia taking on the vandals in Germany, PC Advisor, 26 September 2006.
- ^ Wikipedia-l: LinkBacks?
- ^ The Early History of Nupedia and Wikipedia: A Memoir - Slashdot, retrieved February 20, 2006.
- ^ The Early History of Nupedia and Wikipedia: A Memoir Part 1 and Part 2 from Slashdot Retrieved on March 28, 2007.
- ^ Bergstein, Brian. "Sanger says he co-started Wikipedia", Associated Press, March 25, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-03-28.
- ^ Sanger, Larry. "My role in Wikipedia (links)", larrysanger.org Retrieved on March 28, 2007.
 External links
- History of Wikipedia - from the Wikipedia:Meta
- Nostalgia Wikipedia - a snapshot of Wikipedia from December 20, 2001, running the current version of MediaWiki for security reasons but using a skin that looks like the software of the time.
- Early Wikipedia snapshot--30 March 2001
- Even older Wikipedia snapshot- 28 February 2001
- The Free Universal Encyclopedia and Learning Resource — Free Software Foundation endorsement of Nupedia (later updated to include Wikipedia) 1999.
- Larry Sanger, The Early History of Nupedia and Wikipedia: A Memoir and Part II Slashdot (18 April-19 April 2005)
- Larry Sanger about the origins of Wikipedia
- Giles, Jim, Internet encyclopaedias go head to head, Nature comparison between Wikipedia and Britannica, 14 December 2005
|History of Wikipedia|
|Main articles||Bomis · Nupedia · Wikipedia · Wikimedia Foundation · Wikimania · MediaWiki|
|People||Jimmy Wales · Larry Sanger · Tim Shell · Wikipedia community|
|Events and individuals||Alan Mcilwraith · Blocking of Wikipedia in mainland China · Congressional staffer edits to Wikipedia · Essjay controversy · Henryk Batuta · Joshua Gardner · Seigenthaler controversy · QuakeAID|
|Related projects and forks||Citizendium · Enciclopedia Libre · Interpedia · WikiZnanie · Wikinfo · Wikitruth · Wikiweise|