Business Unusual

Wikipedia, the world's encyclopedia written by you

Wikipedia according to Wikipedia was formed in 2001

The project grew out of plan to create an online encyclopedia in the conventional way but given the scope of the job, proved to be a very challenging.

Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger created Wikipedia as a way to get some basic content to create the new encyclopedia.

One of the typical hallmarks of the businesses profiled for this feature is that they use some new and amazing technological option, but they opted for something tried and tested - a wiki.

Wiki’s had been around since 1994. The name inspired to fit a version of the WWW called the WikiWikiWeb which was inspired by a shuttle bus in Hawaii called the WikiWiki Shuttle (Wiki is “quick” in Hawaiian) They are actually simple and very low tech, which is one of the reasons for their success.

It was not the first attempt at an online encyclopedia but Wikipedia did not try impress people with the technology, instead they focus was on making it simple.

Even now after almost 15 years and 4,9 million articles anyone can still add or remove anything from any entry with a keystroke.

Whether those changes come as a consequence of debate or someone testing the ease of editing does not matter, every edit is recorded and public. From the most edited article on the site - George W Bush (45 000 edits and counting) to one of the very first - A piece on [William Alstom](https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=William<i>Alston&oldid=294257 "William</i>Alston&oldid=294257" "William<i>Alston&oldid=294257 "William</i>Alston&oldid=294257"" "William<i>Alston&oldid=294257 "William</i>Alston&oldid=294257" "William<i>Alston&oldid=294257 "William</i>Alston&oldid=294257""" "William<i>Alston&oldid=294257 "William</i>Alston&oldid=294257" "William<i>Alston&oldid=294257 "William</i>Alston&oldid=294257"" "William<i>Alston&oldid=294257 "William</i>Alston&oldid=294257" "William<i>Alston&oldid=294257 "William</i>Alston&oldid=294257"""") which has the first version posted on 17 January 2001.

With all those edits you might wonder who checks what is true or not. It is the task of thousands of voluntary editors that have become trusted through the number and quality of their posts over time.

Currently the Wikipedia is the World’s 7th most popular website serving 3,5 billion people every month. There are over 124 000 editors a month checked by over 1 000 administrators. And bots.

Bots are the real workers on Wikipedia and while Justin Knapp, a human, was the first to make a million edits, ClueBot (a computer program) is able to do 9 000 per minute and is programmed to monitor vandalism.

The consequence of making edits easy is how to keep the trolls from ruining it and with half the planet visiting each month that is a big job.

But with no ads how do they pay for all of it?

The simple answer is that the site is funded by donations and an endowment. Things are looking good covering the $50 million in annual costs but there were some years that the site had to work hard to cover it.

The site's peak in article creation at 60 000 per month was in 2006/2007 which was also it tightest time for keeping the site sustainable.

It could use ads and would do well with so many visitors but that does not mean the site does not still face a challenge from businesses wanting to enhance their presence on the site.

Edits paid for to make companies and commercial concepts look better to those seeking information about them is a growing challenge as The Atlantic reported earlier this year.

Wikipedia is not the only online encyclopedia, there are many others but few rival it for scope and speed for news events.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Psychology (SEP) is more conventional and where Wikipedia seeks to cover subjects well, the SEP looks to cover them comprehensively with paid editors and submissions from experts in the field.

But if all the sites seek to create a comprehensive collection of all wisdom there is one site that takes that one step further, the Library of Babel claims to contain all published works of 3 200 characters and even all future works of the same length. It was inspired by the book by Jorge Luis Borges called the Library of Babel.

Everything that has or will ever be written is already in one place on a very ordinary looking website. It achieves this by creating every combination of 29 characters, the 26 letters plus a commas, space and full stop.

The result is a collection of books, with 410 pages and 3 200 characters per page. There are more books than there are stars in the Universe.


This article first appeared on 702 : Wikipedia, the world's encyclopedia written by you


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