Online encyclopedia Wikipedia turns 20.
On Jan. 15, 2001, Wikipedia went online as a rigorous seven-step process for publishing articles written by volunteers. To the day, it is curating more than 55.6 million articles written by 300,000 editors (or “Wikipedians”) who volunteer their time to write, edit, block, squabble over, and scrub every corner of the sprawling encyclopedia in more than 300 languages.
Wikipedia is currently the 13th-most-popular website (ahead of Netflix and Reddit). Its reputation is also shinier than those of other internet platforms such as Facebook and Google, making it the indispensable reference for the world.
CEO Jimmy Wales credits Wikipedia’s nonprofit structure for preventing a descent into viral misinformation. Wikipedia’s revenue comes from grants and user donations, not advertising or investors expecting explosive growth.
But, One Zero adds, it is not perfect. There is trolling. There are vandals. There is bullying of “newbies” by editors. And there are imposters who edit not for the greater good but to serve the greed, vanity, or ambition of self-interested (sometimes paying) parties. And, yes, there are many, many weak and thinly sourced articles (only about 40,000 out of the site’s 6 million entries meet the higher standard of being “good articles”). There is also a gender imbalance within the domain of Wikipedia — in English Wikipedia, more than 80% of editors are men and just 18% of biographies are about women.
Regardless, the internet’s encyclopedia is now a cornerstone of life online, and just one year away from legal drinking.