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History of Wikipedia

Wikipedia had its origin in a conversation between two old Internet friends, Larry Sanger, editor-in-chief of Nupedia, and Ben Kovitz, a computer programmer and polymath, on the evening of January 2, 2001, in San Diego, California. Kovitz was a Portland Pattern Repository ("Ward's Wiki") regular at the time (and may still be). When Kovitz explained the basic wiki concept to Sanger over dinner, Sanger immediately saw that a wiki would be an excellent format whereby a more open, less formal encyclopedia project could be pursued. For months prior to this, Sanger and his boss, Jimmy (Jimbo) Wales, president and CEO of Bomis, Inc., had been discussing various ways to supplement Nupedia with a more open, complementary project.

So it did not take much for Sanger to persuade Wales to set up a wiki for Nupedia. Nupedia's first wiki went online on January 10. There was considerable resistance on the part of Nupedia's editors and reviewers, however, to making Nupedia closely associated with a website in the wiki format. Therefore, the new project was given the name "Wikipedia" and launched on its own address,, on January 15 (now humorously called "Wikipedia Day" by some Wikipedians). The bandwidth and server (located in San Diego) was donated by Wales.

The project has received large numbers of participants from being mentioned, three times, on the tech website Slashdot -- there were two minor mentions March 5 and March 30, and then a prominent pointer to a story on the community-edited technology and culture website Kuro5hin on July 26. Between these relatively rapid influxes of traffic, there has been a steady stream of traffic from other sources, especially from Google, which alone daily sends hundreds of new visitors to the site.

The project passed 1,000 pages 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 number of 40,000 articles was reached. The rate of growth has more or less steadily increased since the inception of the project, except for some software-induced slow-downs as will be explained below.

The international expansion took place also during this period. In May, 2001, a dozen non-English wikipedia were launched (probably in Catalan, Chinese, Dutch, German, Esperanto, French, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish, soon joined by Arabic and Hungarian [1], [1]). In September, [1] further dedication was promised for the multilingual provision of Wikipedia. At the end of the year, when international statistics started, Afrikaans, Norwegian, and Serbocroatian have been reported of their existence. [1]

Until January 2002, Sanger was employed by Bomis as editor in chief of Nupedia and the unofficial leader of Wikipedia. Funding ran out, and Sanger resigned from both positions in March 2002. He still contributes to the project and posts on the project's mailing list.

In February 2002, most participants of the Spanish Wikipedia broke away to establish the Enciclopedia Libre -- see that article for details.

The project has occasionally been visited by "vandals" who remove articles or post inappropriate content. Usually, these vandalisms are undone quickly by the regulars, but repeated vandalisms of the project's main page led to the protection of this page so that it could only be changed by administrators.

In August 2002, shortly after Jimbo Wales had stated that he would never run commercial advertisements on Wikipedia, the URL of Wikipedia was changed from to

In the same summer, policy and style issues were clarified with the creation of the Manual of Style and various policies and guidelines.

Derek Ramsey ("Ram-Man") started in October 2002 to use a "bot", or program, to add a large number of articles about U.S towns; these articles were automatically generated from census data. Occasionally, similar bots had been used before for other topics.

In December 2002, the sister project Wiktionary was created; it aims to produce a dictionary and thesaurus of the words in all languages. It runs on the same server as Wikipedia and uses the same software.

In January 2003, support for mathematical formulas in TeX was installed. The code had been written by "Taw".

On January 22 2003, 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 milestone.

In June 2003, "Wikiquote" was created. In July 2003, "Wikibooks" was set up.

See Japanese Wikipedia for the history of the Japanese edition of wikipedia.

See Wikipedia#Software and hardware for a brief history of the software.

External links and references