Wikipedia Celebrates 10 Years of Free Knowledge

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Wikipedia Celebrates 10 Years of Free Knowledge

Wikipedia users and contributors mark the project's first decade with events around the world

San Francisco, January 12, 2011 -- Almost ten years ago, on January 15, 2001, a website with a funny name invited people everywhere to come together to create a free encyclopedia. The initial results were underwhelming. The article "Astronomer" simply said: "Scientist whose area of Research is Astronomy." Sweden: "Country in Northern Europe. Inhabitants are called Swedes. Language spoken is Swedish. Capital is Stockholm." Physics: "Physics is a very broad subject."

Following these humble beginnings, Wikipedia grew quickly, and 1,000 articles were written in less than a month. Over the next five years, many new language versions were launched, and Wikipedia began to surpass traditional reference sources in breadth and depth. The secret to its success: anyone can edit any article. In January 2006, Wikipedia volunteer Gareth Owen wrote on his user page: "The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in practice. In theory, it's a total disaster."

Wikipedia is now consulted by more than 400 million people every month (comScore, Nov 2010). It provides instant access to high quality and in-depth information, free of charge and free of advertising. In the last decade, a vast and unique global volunteer community has come together to create more than 17 million articles in 270 languages, advancing the cause of free knowledge for every person on the planet.

On January 15, the Wikipedia community is coming together in more than 300 locations all over the planet to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the free encyclopedia. From a conference in New York to a concert in Prague, from the launch of a new school project in Nairobi to a museum bootcamp in Amsterdam, from a beer-meet in Bucharest to a film screening in Tel Aviv, the events are organized by volunteers and Wikimedia chapters, as well as independent supporters. The events are open to participation by anyone and reflect the diversity of the community.

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, recalled: "It's hard to imagine that it's been 10 years since I first edited Wikipedia. I remember that first day. I clicked on 'Edit' and I wrote 'Hello World', and that was the beginning of Wikipedia and all the things that have come since then. I want to thank everyone who has helped. I want to thank all the people who have edited Wikipedia, who have contributed to this great knowledge base. I want to thank everybody who is reading Wikipedia, who is really engaging with ideas and knowledge. That's what we made it for: we made it for you to read."

Wikipedia is operated by the Wikimedia Foundation, a charitable non-profit organization established by Wales in 2003. It is entirely supported by donations, and just completed the most successful fundraiser in its history, with more than 500,000 individual donations totaling more than $16 million.

Sue Gardner, Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director, has ambitious goals for the future. "We want to reach a billion people by 2015. We want to persuade more readers to edit. More women. More people from the Global South. We know that the more diverse the editing community becomes, the more comprehensive, accurate and rich the encyclopedia will be."

Jimmy Wales joined her call to action: "Even though we've got millions of articles, even though we're in hundreds of languages, there's still a lot of work to do. So, I want everybody out there, if you've never edited Wikipedia, try it - just click 'edit'."

For more information about Wikipedia 10 events

About the Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization which operates Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. According to comScore Media Metrix, Wikipedia and the other projects operated by the Wikimedia Foundation receive 410 million unique visitors per month, making them the 5th most popular web property world-wide (Nov, 2010). Available in more than 270 languages, Wikipedia contains more than 17 million articles contributed by a global volunteer community of more than 100,000 people. Based in San Francisco, California, the Wikimedia Foundation is an audited, 501(c)(3) charity that is funded primarily through donations and grants.


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