A Brief History Of Wikipedia

Written by: Becca Marsh
Reading time: 4 mins
Last updated: June 18, 2021

Did you know that Wikipedia is the fifth largest website on the internet? The website receives over 6 billion monthly visitors.

A brief history of Wikipedia

Wikipedia is one of the world’s most popular resources for finding information online.

It has become the digital encyclopedia that everyone goes to; however, there are controversial thoughts around the reliability of information found on Wikipedia.

This is mainly because anyone can contribute and edit articles on their site.

Here is a brief history of Wikipedia and how it all got started.

Wikipedia was initially designed to be part of Nupedia.

The Nupedia logo

Initially, Wikipedia was just called “wiki,” which was designed in 1995 as a platform to enhance Nupedia.

Nupedia was already a free online encyclopedia, with the concept of using high qualified volunteers to contribute to the platform.

Unfortunately, this method was prolonged, with only 12 articles being completed in the first year.

So after much thought, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger came up with using a “wiki” to help Nupedia.

A “wiki” is essentially a hypertext that is co-edited and managed from a web browser.

This meant that by using a “wiki,” it would be easier to get more contributors on board and therefore create content at a faster pace.

Wikipedia became a platform where users could write or suggest articles for qualified writers to write about on Nupedia.

Wikipedia was not the first online encyclopedia.

Wales and Sanger

Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger registered the domain name Wikipedia on January 13, 2001.

Two days later, the website was launched when the first edit was created, and it has been building ever since.

However, this was not the first of its kind; there were other online encyclopedias that anyone could contribute to.

In 1993 Rick Gates created the concept for Interpedia, which he proposed to Usenet newsgroup.

The collaboration was accepted, and Interpedia is known as the precursor to Wikipedia.

The first edit on Wikipedia was a test article called “Hello, world!”

The Wikipedia world logo

In an interview in 2008 with Wales, he stated that the first-ever article published in the mid-1990s on Wikipedia was written by himself.

The article was simple, and as a tester piece was called Hello, world!

However, on January 17, 2001, members of Nupedia’s mailing list were encouraged to edit, and this is when Wikipedia relaxed its rules on who could contribute and edit articles.

This meant that the article was edited alongside other articles that already existed.

Wikipedia gained its 1,000th article on February 12, 2001, just under a month after purchasing the domain.

Wikipedia then reached its 10,000th article by September 2001.

At the end of its first official year, Wikipedia reached 20,000 articles, with an average of 1,500 articles being written each month.

Wikipedia proved to be more popular and more successful than Nupedia, which is when attention turned to focus on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is available in hundreds of languages.

A globe, laptop and several books on languages

Wikipedia was written in English, with most writers whose first language is English.

The first language to be added to Wikipedia was German, and as of 2020, it was available in 285 languages.

This allowed users to create articles in their primary language, meaning that Wikipedia in different countries has different articles.

Based on the total number of articles, English is the top-ranked or most popular Wikipedia, followed by German, French, Dutch and Italian.

In January 2002, 90% of articles on Wikipedia were written in English, but by 2004 this had dropped to 50%.

As of 2020, the smallest Wikipedia is in Kanuri, with only one article.

Wikipedia is hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation.

The Wikimedia logo

In 2003, Wales set up the non-profit charity called Wikimedia Foundation.

The focus of the charity was to create platforms and ways of working online with educators.

Wales’ primary belief is that all knowledge should be shared for free and that everyone has a right to access information.

The Wikimedia Foundation was set up to fund Wikipedia as, in 2002, the main funder of Wikipedia, Bomis, withdrew funding.

Although Wikimedia Foundation is a non for profit charity, they bring in around $109.9 million every year to fund projects.

The foundation aims to develop and maintain the content online through Wikipedia and other services that provide learning and educational resources.

 

So Wikipedia was initially set up as a platform for the public to suggest articles and topics.

But after its popularity increases and drives in web views, Wikipedia became the main platform.

Now hosted by Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedia is the fifth-largest website on the internet, with over 6 billion visitors every month.

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