Wikipedia turns ten

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By Joshua Ostrer

How many of you have, at some point, used Wikipedia? How many of you have used it to for background research for class?

If you are among the many who have, then you will probably be surprised to realize that Wikipedia is now a decade old.

This very Jan. 15 marks the 10th anniversary of the information supergiant, Wikipedia and its split from earlier efforts such as Nupedia.

In the past ten years, Wikipedia, founded by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, has become the largest internet encyclopedia project in the world and the ninth most trafficked site on the internet.

Wikipedia prides itself in its openness to the public, utilizing the knowledge of all its readers to contribute to its articles. Wikipedia has made a number of changes over the years in order to ensure credibility, such as instituting a ‘pending changes’ system for a few controversial articles, where the articles are “subject to review from an established Wikipedia editor before publication.”

Despite criticism from individuals such as Encyclopædia Britannica’s former editor-in-chief, Wikipedia refuses to abandon its policy of open editing. Wikipedia editors operate under the philosophy of “verifiability, not truth.” Interestingly, Wikipedia’s immediate predecessor, Nupedia, used a much stricter peer-review process, but this turned out to be too inefficient and clumsy, which hindered growth.

It should come as no surprise that Wikipedia has encountered legal troubles in its first ten years of existence. However, the encyclopedia has remained fairly un-touched due to its “creative commons” license, which dictates that the information held on the website is “available for others to build upon legally and to share.”

This could explain why Wikipedia’s 17 million articles, 3.5 million of them in English, are found throughout numerous publications.

Wikipedia currently boasts a number of staggering statistics. Wikipedia has 400 million visits monthly to its 257 different active language editions (276 in total), which amounts to over 2500 page-visits a second. If a fast-reading Wikipedia enthusiast were to completely deprive themselves of sleep with the goal of reading all of Wikipedia, it “would take over two years, and by the time they were done, so much would have changed with the parts they had already read that they would have to start over.”

However, Wikipedia is not allowing its 10th birthday to come and go without a little celebration. Wikipedia’s website alone has over 300 documented celebration events planned around the globe. Other celebration endeavors include a Wikipedia timeline, and “The Wikipedia Song,” composed by an Australian theater collective, Building 25.

In an address to the public, founder Jimmy Wales, affirms that, “the impact [of Wikipedia] is staggering.” However, he insists that there is “still work to do.” But Wales goes on to thank all of Wikipedia’s over 400,000 editors in its ten-year history for their dedications and contributions. Wales then recalls the first edit ever made to a Wikipedia page, by himself: “hello world.”

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