History of Wikipedia

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone and that aims to provide free encyclopedic information to its readers. It was formally launched on 15 January 2001. Initially it was created as a complement and 'feeder' to the expert-written English-language encyclopedia project 'Nupedia', in order to provide an additional source of draft articles and ideas. It quickly overtook Nupedia, growing to become a large global project, and originating a wide range of additional reference projects. As of 2008, Wikipedia includes several million freely usable articles and pages in hundreds of languages worldwide, and content from millions of contributors.

History overview


The concept of gathering all of the world's knowledge in a single place goes back to the ancient Library of Alexandria and Pergamon, but the modern concept of a general purpose, widely distributed, printed encyclopedia dates from shortly before Denis Diderot and the 18th century encyclopedists. The idea of using automated machinery beyond the printing press to build a more useful encyclopedia can be traced to librarian Charles Ammi Cutter's article "The Buffalo Public Library in 1983" (Library Journal, 1883, p. 211–217), Paul Otlet's book Traité de documentation (1934; Otlet also founded the Mundaneum institution, 1910), H. G. Wells' book of essays World Brain (1937) and Vannevar Bush's future vision of the microfilm based Memex in As We May Think (1945). Another milestone was Ted Nelson's Project Xanadu in 1973.

With the development of the web, many people attempted to develop Internet encyclopedia projects. One little-acknowledged predecessor was the Interpedia (initiated in 1993), which Robert McHenry has linked conceptually to Wikipedia. Free software exponent Richard Stallman described the usefulness of a "Free Universal Encyclopedia and Learning Resource" in 1999. His published document "aims to lay out what the free encyclopedia needs to do, what sort of freedoms it needs to give the public, and how we can get started on developing it." On January 17, 2001, two days after the start of Wikipedia, the Free Software Foundation's GNUPedia project went online, competing with Nupedia, but today the FSF encourages people "to visit and contribute to [Wikipedia]".

Formulation of the concept

Wikipedia was initially conceived as a feeder project for Nupedia, an earlier (now defunct) project founded by Jimmy Wales to produce a free encyclopedia. Nupedia was founded upon the use of highly qualified contributors and an elaborate multi-step peer review process. Despite its mailing-list of interested editors, and the presence of a full-time editor-in-chief, Larry Sanger, a graduate philosophy student hired by Wales, the writing of content was extremely slow with only 12 articles written during the first year.

Wales and Sanger discussed various ways to create content more rapidly. The idea of a wiki-based complement originated from a conversation between Larry Sanger and BenKovitz. Ben Kovitz, a computer programmer and regular on Ward Cunningham's wiki (the WikiWikiWeb), introduced Sanger to wikis over dinner on January 2, 2001. Wales first stated, in October 2001, that "Larry had the idea to use Wiki software", though he later claimed in December 2005 that Jeremy Rosenfeld, a Bomis employee, introduced him to the concept. Sanger thought a wiki would be a good platform to use, and proposed on the Nupedia mailing list that a wiki based upon UseModWiki (then v. 0.90) be set up as a "feeder" project for Nupedia. Under the subject "Let's make a wiki", he wrote:

No, this is not an indecent proposal. It's an idea to add a little feature to Nupedia. Jimmy Wales thinks that many people might find the idea objectionable, but I think not. (…) As to Nupedia's use of a wiki, this is the ULTIMATE "open" and simple format for developing content. We have occasionally bandied about ideas for simpler, more open projects to either replace or supplement Nupedia. It seems to me wikis can be implemented practically instantly, need very little maintenance, and in general are very low-risk. They're also a potentially great source for content. So there's little downside, as far as I can determine.
Wales set one up and put it online on January 10 2001.

Founding of Wikipedia

There was considerable resistance on the part of Nupedia's editors and reviewers to the idea of associating Nupedia with a wiki-style website. Sanger suggested giving the new project its own name, Wikipedia, and Wikipedia was soon launched on its own domain,, on January 15 2001.

The bandwidth and server (located in San Diego) used for these projects were donated by Bomis. Many current and past Bomis employees have contributed some content to the encyclopedia: notably Tim Shell, co-founder and current CEO of Bomis, and programmer Jason Richey.

The first edits ever made on Wikipedia are believed to be test edits by Wales. However, the oldest article still preserved is the article UuU, created on 16 January 2001, at 21:08 UTC.

The project received many new participants after being mentioned three times on the Slashdot website, with two minor mentions in March 2001. It then received a prominent pointer to a story on the community-edited technologies and culture website Kuro5hin on July 25. Between these relatively rapid influxes of traffic, there had been a steady stream of traffic from other sources, especially Google, which alone sent hundreds of new visitors to the site every day. Its first major mainstream media coverage was in the New York Times on September 20, 2001.

The project passed 1,000 articles 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 article count reached 40,000. The rate of growth has more or less steadily increased since the inception of the project, except for a few software- and hardware-induced slow-downs.

Namespaces and Internationalization

Early in Wikipedia's development, it began to expand internationally, with the creation of new namespaces, each with a distinct set of usernames. The first domain reserved for a non-English Wikipedia was (on 16 March 2001), followed after some minutes by; for about two months the latter was the only one with articles in a non-English language. The French Wikipedia was created on 23 March 2001, and was followed in May 2001 by a wave of new language versions, namely Chinese, Dutch, Esperanto, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish. These languages were soon joined by Arabic and Hungarian. In September 2001, an announcement pledged commitment to the multilingual provision of Wikipedia, notifying users of an upcoming roll-out of Wikipedias for all major languages, the establishment of core standards, and a push for the translation of core pages for the new wikis. At the end of that year, when international statistics first began to be logged, Afrikaans, Norwegian, and Serbian versions were announced.

In January 2002, 90% of all Wikipedia articles were in English. By January 2004, less than 50% were English, and this internationalization has continued to increase. As of 2007, around 75% of all Wikipedia articles are contained within non-English Wikipedia versions.


In March 2002, following the withdrawal of funding by Bomis, Larry Sanger left both Nupedia and Wikipedia. Initially amicable, by 2004 differences between Sanger and Wales had driven a wedge between them, centering upon Sanger's criticism of Wikipedia's approach, his role in Wikipedia's success, and their views on how best to manage open encyclopedias (see Early roles of Wales and Sanger). Both still supported the open-collaboration concept, but the two differed on how best to handle disruptive editors, specific roles for experts, and the best way to guide the project to success.

Wales, a believer in communal governance and "hands off" executive management, went on to establish self-governance and bottom-up self-direction by editors on Wikipedia. He made it clear that he would not be involved in the community's day to day management, but would encourage it to learn to self-manage and find its own best approaches. As of 2007, Wales mostly restricts his own role to occasional input on serious matters, executive activity, advocacy of knowledge, and encouragement of similar reference projects.

Sanger advocated a "two tier" expert-led culture and more "hands on" executive management, with final editorial control by chief editors closer to the traditional model. He returned briefly to academia, then after joining the Digital Universe Foundation, went on to found Citizendium, an alternative open encyclopedia which uses real names for contributors in order to reduce disruptive editing, supports the specific recognition of experts, and is governed by a system of top-down management, including himself or agreed-upon editors or committees. He has stated that he intends to leave in a few years, when the project and its management are established.


The Wikipedia project has grown rapidly in the course of its life, at several levels. Individual wikis have grown organically through the addition of new articles, new wikis have been added in English and non-English languages, and entire new projects replicating these growth methods in other related areas (news, quotations, reference books and so on) have been founded as well.

Respectively, Wikipedia itself has grown, with the creation of the Wikimedia Foundation to act as an umbrella body and the growth of software and policies to address the needs of the editorial community. These are documented below.

Historical overview by year

Articles summarizing each year are held within the Wikipedia project namespace and are linked to below. Additional resources for research are available within the Wikipedia records and archives, and are listed at the end of this article.2000
The Nupedia project is started with Larry Sanger running the daily operations and formulating many of the initial policies. 2001 The and domain names are registered on January 12, 2001 and January 13, 2001, respectively, with the latter being brought online on January 13, according to Alexa; project formally opens Jan 15 ('Wikipedia Day'); the first international Wikipedias are created (March-May: French, German, Catalan, Swedish); "Neutral point of view" (NPOV) policy is formally formulated; first slashdotter wave arrives July 26. The first media report about Wikipedia appears in August 2001 coincidentally by the newspaper Wales on Sunday.2002 Year 2002 sees: the end of funding from Bomis and the departure of Larry Sanger; the forking of the Spanish Wikipedia to establish the Enciclopedia Libre; and the creation of the first portable Mediawiki software (went live Jan 25). Bots are introduced, Jimmy Wales confirms Wikipedia would never run commercial advertising, and the first sister project (Wiktionary) and first formal Manual of Style are launched. A separate board of directors to supervise the project is proposed and initially discussed at Meta-Wikipedia.2003 Mathematical formulae using TeX are introduced; English Wikipedia passes 100,000 articles (the next largest, German, passes 10,000); the Wikimedia Foundation is established; Wikipedia adopts its jigsaw world logo; and the first Wikipedian social meeting is organized. The basic principles of Wikipedia's ArbCom (known colloquially as "Arbcom") are developed mostly by Florence Devouard, Fred Bauder and other key early Wikipedians.2004 The worldwide Wikipedia article pool continues to grow rapidly, doubling in size in 12 months, from under 500,000 articles to over 1 million (English Wikipedia was just less than half of these) in over 100 languages. The server farms are moved from California to Florida; Categories and CSS style configuration sheets are introduced; and the first attempt to block Wikipedia occurs (China, June 2004, duration 2 weeks). Formal election of a board and ArbCom begin - Devouard is the only person elected who was instrumental in ArbCom. She and others begin to criticize balance and focus problems and lead efforts to fill in articles in neglected areas. The first formal projects are proposed to deliberately balance content and seek out systemic bias arising from Wikipedia's community structure.2005 Multilingual and subject portals are established; the first quarter's formal fundraiser raises almost US $ 100,000 for system upgrades to handle growing demand; Wikipedia becomes the most popular reference website on the Internet according to Hitwise; China again blocks Wikipedia (October); English Wikipedia passes 750,000 articles. The first Wikipedia scandal occurs, when a well known figure is found to have a vandalized biography which had gone unnoticed for months (the "Seigenthaler incident"). In the wake of this and other concerns, the first policy and system changes specifically designed to counter this form of abuse are established. These include a new CheckUser policy privilege policy update (checkuser is a Mediawiki tool that assists in sock puppetry investigations), a new feature called Requests for page protection, a more strict policy on biographies of living people and tagging of such articles for stricter review, and restriction of new article creation to registered users only.2006 English Wikipedia gains its 1½ millionth article; the first approved Wikipedia article selection is made freely available to download; "Wikipedia" becomes registered as a trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation; The congressional aides biography scandals come to public attention: multiple incidents in which congressional staffers and a campaign manager are caught trying to covertly alter Wikipedia biographies, the campaign manager resigns.

Jimmy Wales indicates, at Wikimania 2006, that Wikipedia has achieved sufficient volume and calls for an emphasis on quality, perhaps best expressed in the call for 100,000 feature-quality articles; A new privilege "oversight" is created allowing specific versions of archived pages with unacceptable content to be marked as non-viewable; Semi-protection against anonymous vandalism, introduced in 2005, proves more successful than anticipated, with over 1,000 pages semi-protected at any given time; Wikipedia is rated as one of the top 2006 global brands.

Wales leaves his formal role to focus on Wikia and other projects. He and Larry Sanger publicly clash over project philosophy and co-foundership. Sanger accuses Wales of facilitating "trolls" and indirectly of being one himself; Wales more directly claims "trolls" are responsible for re-asserting Sanger's claims of co-foundership, which Wales now disputes.2007 Wikipedia continues to grow, with some 5 million registered editor accounts; the combined Wikipedias in all languages together contain 1.74 billion words in 7.5 million articles in approximately 250 languages; the English Wikipedia gains a steady 1,700 articles a day, with the domain name ranked at around the 10th busiest on the Internet (See Wikipedia Statistics); Wikipedia continues to garner visibility in Wikipedia publicity and to slowly but steadily Wikipedia as a court source both in serious legal decision-making and as a source of collated information on current events; the Essjay controversy breaks when a prominent member of Wikipedia is found to have lied about his credentials; Citizendium launches publicly; a trend develops that the encyclopedia addresses people whose notability stems from being a participant in a news story by adding a redirect from their name to the larger story, rather than creation of a distinct biographical article.2008 Various WikiProjects in many areas continue to expand and refine article contents within their scope. In April, the 10 millionth Wikipedia article was created, an article within the Hungarian Wikipedia, and, only several months later, the English Wikipedia exceeds 2.5 million articles, containing articles as of .

History by subject area

Hardware and software

The software that runs Wikipedia, and the hardware, server farms and other systems upon which Wikipedia relies.

  • In January 2001, Wikipedia ran on UseModWiki, written in Perl by Clifford Adams. The server has run on Linux to this day, although the original text was stored in files rather than in a database. Articles were named with the CamelCase convention.
  • In January 2002, "Phase II" of the wiki software powering Wikipedia was introduced, replacing the older UseModWiki. Written specifically for the project by Magnus Manske, it included a PHP wiki engine.
  • In July 2002, a major rewrite of the software powering Wikipedia went live; dubbed "Phase III", it replaced the older "Phase II" version, and became MediaWiki. It was written by Lee Daniel Crocker in response to the increasing demands of the growing project.
  • In October 2002, Derek Ramsey started to use a "bot", or program, to add a large number of articles about United States towns; these articles were automatically generated from U.S. census data. Occasionally, similar bots had been used before for other topics. These articles were generally well received, but some users criticized them for their initial uniformity and writing style (for example, see this version of an original bot-generated town article, and compare to current version).
  • In January 2003, support for mathematical formulas in TeX was added. The code was contributed by Tomasz Wegrzanowski.
  • June 9, 2003 - ISBNs in articles now link to Special:Booksources, which fetches its contents from the user-editable page . Before this, ISBN link targets were coded into the software and new ones were suggested on the page. See the edit that changed this.
  • After 6 December 2003, various system messages shown to Wikipedia users were no longer hard coded, allowing Wikipedia ADMIN to modify certain parts of MediaWiki's interface, such as the message shown to blocked users.
  • On February 12, 2004, server operations were moved from San Diego, California to Tampa, Florida.
  • On May 29, 2004, all the various websites were updated to a new version of the MediaWiki software.
  • On May 30, 2004, the first instances of "categorization" entries appeared. Category schemes, like Recent Changes and Edit This Page, had existed from the founding of Wikipedia. However, Larry Sanger had viewed the schemes as lists, and even hand-entered articles, whereas the categorization effort centered on individual categorization entries in each article of the encyclopedia, as part of a larger automatic categorization of the articles of the encyclopedia.
  • After 3 June, 2004, administrators could edit the style of the interface by changing the CSS in the monobook stylesheet at MediaWiki:Monobook.css
  • Also on 30 May 2004, with MediaWiki 1.3, the Template namespace was created, allowing transclusion of standard texts.
  • On 7 June 2005 at 3:00AM Eastern Standard Time the bulk of the Wikimedia servers were moved to a new facility across the street. All Wikimedia projects were down during this time.

Look and feel

The external face of Wikipedia, its look and feel, and the Wikipedia branding, as presented to users

  • On April 4, 2002 Brilliant Prose, since renamed to Featured Articles, was moved to the Wikipedia Namespace from the article namespace.
  • Around October 15 2003, the current Wikipedia logo was installed. The logo concept was selected by a voting process, which was followed by a revision process to select the best variant. The final selection was created by Nohat based on a logo design and concept created by Paul Stansifer.
  • On February 22, 2004 DYK made its first Main Page appearance.
  • On February 23, 2004 a coordinated new look for the Main Page appeared at 19:46 UTC Hand-chosen entries for the Daily Featured Article, Anniversaries, In the News, and Did You Know rounded out the new look.
  • On January 10, 2005, the multilingual portal at was set up, replacing a redirect to the English-language Wikipedia.
  • On February 5, 2005, the was created, first "portal" on the English Wikipedia. However, the concept was pioneered on the German Wikipedia where Portal:Recht (law studies) was set up in October 2003.
  • On July 16, 2005, the English Wikipedia began the practice of including the day's "featured pictures" on the Main Page.
  • On March 19, 2006, following a vote, the Main Page of the English language Wikipedia featured its first redesign in nearly two years.

Internal structures

Landmarks in the Wikipedia community, and the development of its organization, Editorial oversight and control, and Policy.

  • April 2001, Wales formally defines the "neutral point of view", Wikipedia's core non-negotiable editorial policy, a reformulation of the "Lack of Bias" policy outlined by Sanger for Nupedia in spring or summer 2000, which covered many of the same core principles.
  • In September 2001, collaboration by subject matter in WikiProjects is introduced.
  • In February 2002, concerns over the risk of future censorship and commercialization by Bomis Inc (Wikipedia's original host) combined with a lack of guarantee this would not happen, led most participants of the Spanish Wikipedia to break away and establish it independently as the Enciclopedia Libre. Following clarification of Wikipedia's status and non-commercial nature later that year, re-merger talks between Enciclopedia Libre and the re-founded Spanish Wikipedia occasionally took place in 2002 and 2003, but no conclusion was reached. As of July 2007, the two continue to coexist as substantial Spanish language reference sources, with around 36,700 articles (EL) and 248,800 articles (Sp.W) respectively.
  • Also in 2002, policy and style issues were clarified with the creation of the Manual of Style, along with a number of other policies and guidelines.
  • November 2002 - new mailing lists for WikiEN and Announce are set up, as well as other language mailing lists (eg Polish), to reduce the volume of traffic on mailing lists.
  • In July 2003, the rule against editing your autobiography is introduced.
  • On October 28 2003, the first "real" meeting of Wikipedians happened in Munich. Many cities followed suit, and soon a number of regular Wikipedian get-togethers were established around the world. Several Internet communities, including one on the popular blog website LiveJournal, have also sprung up since.
  • From July 10 to August 30, 2004 the and formerly on the Main Page were replaced by links to overviews. On August 27, 2004 the Community Portal was started, to serve as a focus for community efforts. These were previously accomplished on an informal basis, by individual queries of the Recent Changes, in wiki style, as ad-hoc collaborations between like-minded editors.
  • During September to December 2005 following the Seigenthaler controversy and other similar concerns, several anti-abuse features and policies were added to Wikipedia. These were:

* The policy for "Checkuser" (a MediaWiki extension to assist detection of abuse via internet sock-puppetry) was established in November 2005. but was viewed more as a system tool at the time, as a result of which there had been no need for a policy covering use on a more routine basis.
*Creation of new pages on the English Wikipedia was restricted to editors who had created a user account.
* The introduction and rapid adoption of the policy , giving a far tighter quality control and fact-check system to biographical articles related to living people.
* The "semi-protection" function and policy, allowing pages to be protected so that only those with an account could edit.

  • In May 2006, a new "oversight" feature was introduced on the English Wikipedia, allowing a handful of highly trusted users to permanently erase page revisions containing copyright infringements or libelous or personal information from a page's history. Previous to this, page version deletion was laborious, and also deleted versions remained visible to other administrators and could be un-deleted by them.
  • On January 1 2007, the subcommunity named Esperanza was disbanded by communal consent. Esperanza had begun as an effort to promote "Wikilove" and a social support network, but had developed its own subculture and private structures. Its disbanding was described as the painful but necessary remedy for a project that had allowed editors to "see themselves as Esperanzans first and foremost". A number of Esperanza's subprojects (including Admin coaching and Stress Alerts) were integrated back into Wikipedia as free-standing projects. When the group was founded in September 2005, there had been concerns expressed that it would eventually be condemned as such.
  • In April 2007 the results of 4 months policy review by a working group of several hundred editors seeking to merge the core Wikipedia policies into one core policy (See: ) was polled for community support. The proposal did not gain consensus; a significant view became evident that the existing structure of three strong focussed policies covering the respective areas of policy, was frequently seen as more helpful to quality control than one more general merged proposal.

The Wikimedia Foundation and legal structures

Legal and organizational structure of the Wikimedia Foundation, its executive, and its activities as a foundation.

  • In August 2002, shortly after Jimmy Wales announced that he would never run commercial advertisements on Wikipedia, the URL of Wikipedia was changed from to (see: .com and .org).
  • On June 20 2003, the Wikimedia Foundation was founded.
  • Communications committee was formed in January 2006 to handle media inquiries and emails received for the foundation and Wikipedia via the newly implemented OTRS (a ticket handling system).
  • Angela Beesley and Florence Nibart-Devouard were elected to the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation. During this time, Angela was active in editing content and setting policy, such as privacy policy, within the Foundation.
  • On January 10, Wikipedia became a registered trademark of Wikimedia Foundation.
  • In July 2006, Angela Beesley resigned from the board of the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • In June 2006, Brad Patrick was hired to be the first executive director of the Foundation. He resigned in January 2007, and was later replaced by Sue Gardner (June 2007).
  • In October 2006, Florence Nibart-Devouard became chair of the board of Wikimedia Foundation.

Projects and landmarks

Sister projects, and landmarks related to articles, user base, and other statistics.

  • In December 2002, the first sister project, Wiktionary, was created; aiming to produce a dictionary and thesaurus of the words in all languages. It uses the same software as Wikipedia.
  • On January 22 2003, the English Wikipedia was again slashdotted after having reached the 100,000 article milestone with the Hastings, New Zealand article. Two days later, the German language Wikipedia, the largest non-English version, passed the 10,000 article mark.
  • On June 20 2003, the same day that the Wikimedia Foundation was founded, "Wikiquote" was created. A month later, "Wikibooks" was launched. "Wikisource" was set up towards the end of the year.
  • In January 2004, Wikipedia passed the 200,000 article milestone in English with the article on Neil Warnock, and reached 450,000 articles for both English and non-English wikis. The next month, the combined article count of the English and non-English wikis reached 500,000.
  • On April 20, 2004, the article count of the English wiki reached 250,000.
  • On July 7, 2004, the article count of the English wiki reached 300,000.
  • On September 20, 2004, Wikipedia reached one million articles in over 105 languages, and received a flurry of related attention in the press. The one millionth article was published in the Hebrew language Wikipedia, and discusses the flag of Kazakhstan.
  • On November 20, 2004, the article count of the English Wikipedia reached 400,000.
  • On March 18, 2005, Wikipedia passed the 500,000 article milestone in English, with Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union being announced in a press release as the landmark article.
  • In May 2005, Wikipedia became the most popular reference website on the Internet according to traffic monitoring company Hitwise, relegating to second place.
  • On September 29, 2005, the English Wikipedia passed the 750,000 article mark.
  • On March 1, 2006, the English language Wikipedia passed the 1,000,000 article mark, with Jordanhill railway station being announced on the Main Page as the milestone article
  • On June 8, 2006, the English language Wikipedia passed the 1,000 featured article mark, with Iranian peoples.
  • On August 15, 2006 the Wikimedia Foundation launches Wikiversity.
  • On November 24, 2006, the English language Wikipedia passed the 1,500,000 article mark, with Kanab ambersnail being announced on the Main Page as the milestone article.
  • On April 4, 2007, the first CD selection in English was published as a free download (see 2006 Wikipedia CD Selection).
  • On September 9, 2007, the English language Wikipedia passed the 2,000,000 article mark. El Hormiguero, an article which covers a Spanish TV comedy show, is accepted by consensus as the 2,000,000th article.
  • On August 12, 2008, the English language Wikipedia passed the 2,500,000 article mark.


  • One of the first fundraisers was held from February 18, 2005 to March 1, 2005, raising $94,000, which was $21,000 more than expected.
  • On January 6 2006, the Q4 2005 fundraiser concluded, raising a total of just over $390,000.
  • In June 2007 it was announced that the German Wikipedia will be receiving state funding.

External impact

Effect of biographical articles

Because Wikipedia biographies are often updated as soon as new information comes to light, they are often used as a reference source on the lives of Living people. This has led to attempts to manipulate and falsify Wikipedia articles for promotional or defamatory purposes (see Controversies). It has also led to novel uses of the biographical material provided. Some notable people's lives are being affected by their Wikipedia biography.

  • November 2005: The Seigenthaler controversy. Someone, who later committed that he wanted to make a joke, wrote into the article that journalist John Seigenthaler had been involved in the Kennedy murder of 1963.
  • December 2006: German comedian "Atze Schröder", who does not want his real name published, sued Arne Klempert, secretary of Wikimedia Deutschland, because of the Wikipedia article. Then the artist drew back his complaint, but wanted his attorney's costs to be paid by Klempert. Trial decided that the artist had to cover those costs by himself.
  • February 16, 2007: Turkish historian Taner Akçam was briefly detained upon arrival at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport because of false information on his biography that he was a terrorist.
  • September 2008: Changes or "manipulations" at the Sarah Palin article in English Wikipedia have been noticed by the media.


  • January 2005: The fake charity QuakeAID, in the month following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, attempts to promote itself on its Wikipedia page.
  • October 2005: Alan Mcilwraith is exposed as a fake war hero with a Wikipedia page.
  • November 2005: The Seigenthaler controversy causes Brian Chase to resign from his employment, after his identity is ascertained by Daniel Brandt of Wikipedia Watch. Following this, the scientific journal Nature undertakes a peer reviewed study to test articles in Wikipedia against their equivalents in Encyclopedia Britannica, and concludes they are comparable in terms of accuracy. Britannica rejected their methodology and their conclusion. Nature refuses to make any apologies, asserting instead the reliability of its study and a rejection of the criticisms. (For studies like this, see Reliability of Wikipedia. For traffic impact see Wikipedia history in images)
  • Early-to-mid 2006: The congressional aides biography scandals come to public attention, in which several political aides are caught trying to influence the Wikipedia biographies of several politicians to remove undesirable information (including pejorative statements quoted, or broken campaign promises), add favorable information or "glowing" tributes, or replace the article in part or whole by staff authored biographies. The staff of at least five politicians were implicated: Marty Meehan, Norm Coleman, Conrad Burns, Joe Biden, Gil Gutknecht. In a separate but similar incident the campaign manager for Cathy Cox, Morton Brilliant, resigns after being found to have added negative information to the Wikipedia entries of political opponents. Following media publicity, the incidents tapered off around August 2006.
  • July 2006: Joshua Gardner is exposed as a fake Duke of Cleveland with a Wikipedia page.
  • January 2007: English-language Wikipedians in Qatar were briefly blocked from editing, following a spate of vandalism, by an administrator who did not realize that the country's internet traffic is routed through a single IP address. Multiple media sources promptly declared that Wikipedia was banning Qatar from the site.
  • On January 23 2007, a Microsoft employee offered to pay Rick Jelliffe to review and change certain Wikipedia articles regarding an open-source document standard which was rival to a Microsoft format.
  • In February 2007, The New Yorker magazine issued a rare editorial correction that a prominent English Wikipedia editor and administrator known as "Essjay", had invented a persona using fictitious credentials. The editor, Ryan Jordan, became a Wikia employee in January 2007 and divulged his real name; this was noticed by Daniel Brandt of Wikipedia Watch, and communicated to the original article author. (See: Essjay controversy)
  • February 2007: Fuzzy Zoeller sues a Miami firm because defamatory information was added to his Wikipedia biography in an anonymous edit that came from their network.
  • February 16, 2007: Turkish historian Taner Akçam was briefly detained upon arrival at a Canadian airport because of false information on his biography indicating that he was a terrorist.
  • In June 2007, an anonymous user posted hoax information that, by coincidence, foreshadowed the Chris Benoit murder-suicide, hours before the bodies were found by investigators. The discovery of the edit attracted widespread media attention and was first covered in sister site Death of Nancy Benoit rumour posted on Wikipedia hours prior to body being found.
  • In October 2007, in their obituaries of recently-deceased TV theme composer Ronnie Hazlehurst, many British media organisations reported that he had co-written the S Club 7 song "Reach". In fact, he hadn't, and it was discovered that this information had been sourced from a hoax edit to Hazlehurst's Wikipedia article.
  • In January 2008, Barbara Bauer, a literary agent, sued Wikimedia for defamation and causing harm to her business. In Bauer v. Glatzer, Bauer claimed that information on Wikipedia critical of her abilities as a literary agent caused this harm. The Electronic Frontier Foundation defended Wikipedia and moved to dismiss the case on May 2, 2008. The case against the Wikimedia Foundation was dismissed on 7/1/08.

Notable forks and derivatives

See for a partial list of Wikipedia mirrors and forks. No list of sites utilizing the software is maintained. A significant number of sites utilize the MediaWiki software and concept, popularized by Wikipedia.

Specialized foreign language forks using the Wikipedia concept include Enciclopedia Libre (Spanish), Wikiweise (German), WikiZnanie (Russian), (Swedish), and Baidu Baike (Chinese). Some of these (such as Enciclopedia Libre) use GFDL or compatible licenses as used by Wikipedia, leading to exchange of material with their respective language Wikipedias.

In 2006, Larry Sanger founds Citizendium, based upon a modified version of MediaWiki. It has expert-led top-down culture, the absence of which in Wikipedia he views as a major concern.

Publication on other media

The German Wikipedia was the first to be partly published also using other media (rather than online on the internet), including releases on CD in November 2004 and more extended versions on CDs or DVD in April 2005 and December 2006. In December 2005, the publisher Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, a sister company of Directmedia, published a 139 page book explaining Wikipedia, its history and policies, which was accompanied by a 7.5 GB DVD containing 300,000 articles and 100,000 images from the German Wikipedia. Originally, Directmedia also announced plans to print the German Wikipedia in its entirety, in 100 volumes of 800 pages each. Publication was due to begin in October 2006, and finish in 2010. In March 2006, however, this project was called off.

In September 2008, Bertelsmann published a 1000 pages volume with a selection of popular German Wikipedia articles, in fact their introductions. Bertelsmann paid voluntarily 1 Euro per sold copy to Wikimedia Deutschland.

The first CD version containing a selection of articles from the English Wikipedia was published in April 2006 by SOSChildren as the 2006 Wikipedia CD Selection. In April 2007, "Wikipedia Version 0.5", a CD containing around 2000 articles selected from the online encyclopedia was published by the Wikimedia Foundation and Linterweb. The selection of articles included was based on both the quality of the online version and the importance of the topic to be included. This CD version was created as a test-case in preparation for a DVD version including far more articles. The CD version can be purchased online, downloaded as a DVD image file or Version 1.0 Editorial Team/Torrent Project/Version 0.5, or accessed online at the project's website

A free software project has also been launched to make a static version of Wikipedia available for use on iPods. The "Encyclopodia" project was started around March 2006 and can currently be used on 1st to 4th generation iPods. iPhone and iPod touch are able to edit Wikipedia pages.


In limited ways, the Wikimedia Foundation is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. A similar law in France caused a lawsuit to be dismissed in October 2007.

Other notable occurrences

Early roles of Wales and Sanger

Both Wales and Sanger played important roles in the early stages of Wikipedia. Sanger initially brought the wiki concept to Wales and suggested it be applied to Nupedia and then, after some initial skepticism, Wales agreed to try it. Wales ascribed the broader idea of an encyclopedia to which non-experts could contribute, i.e. Wikipedia. Sanger wrote, "To be clear, the idea of an open source, collaborative encyclopedia, open to contribution by ordinary people, was entirely Jimmy's, not mine" (emphasis in original text). He also wrote, "Jimmy, of course, deserves enormous credit for investing in and guiding Wikipedia." Wales stated in October 2001 that "Larry had the idea to use Wiki software." Sanger coined the portmanteau "Wikipedia" as the project name. In review, Larry Sanger conceived of a wiki-based encyclopedia as a strategic solution to Nupedia's inefficiency problems. In terms of project roles, Sanger spearheaded and pursued the project as its leader in its first year, and did most of the early work in formulating policies (including "Ignore all rules" and "Neutral point of view") and building up the community. Upon departure in March 2002, Sanger emphasized the main issue was purely the cessation of Bomis' funding for his role, which was not viable part-time, and his changing personal priorities, however by 2004 the two had drifted apart and Sanger became more critical. Two weeks after the launch of Citizendium, Sanger heavily criticized Wikipedia, describing the latter as "broken beyond repair."

Wales claims to be the founder of Wikipedia, however, as explained by Brian Bergstein of the Associated Press, "Sanger has long been cited as a co-founder." There is evidence that Sanger was called co-founder, along with Wales, as early as 2001, and he is referred to as such in early Wikipedia press releases and Wikipedia articles, and in a September 2001 The New York Times article for which both were interviewed. Wales later disputed this, stating, "He used to work for me [...] I don't agree with calling him a co-founder, but he likes the title." There is no evidence from before January 2004 of Wales disputing Sanger's status as co-founder.

Today, Wales emphasizes this employer-employee relation and the fact that he was therefore the ultimate authority, to assert that this makes him the "sole founder," and Sanger cites earlier versions of Wikipedia pages (2004, 2006) and press releases (2002 - 2004), to demonstrate that media coverage articles from the time of his involvement routinely represent them as co-founders.

Blocking of Wikipedia

Wikipedia has been blocked on some occasions by national authorities. To date these have related to the People's Republic of China, Iran, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Syria.
Mainland China (multiple occasions)

The People's Republic of China and internet service providers in Mainland China have adopted a practice of blocking contentious Web sites in mainland China, and Wikimedia sites have been blocked multiple times in its history, sometimes all articles, and sometimes selectively by topic, region, language version, or ISP. Notable blocks include:

  1. June 2004: Access to the Chinese Wikipedia from Beijing blocked on the fifteenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Possibly related to this, on May 31 an article from the IDG News Service was published, discussing the Chinese Wikipedia's treatment of the protests.
  2. September 2004: A second and less serious outage. Access to Wikipedia was erratic or unavailable to some users in mainland China — this block was not comprehensive and some users in mainland China were never affected. The exact reason for the block is unknown, but it may have been linked with the closing down of YTHT BBS, a popular Peking University-based BBS that was shut down a few weeks earlier for hosting overtly radical political discussions.
  3. October 2005 to around mid October 2006: For the first few days the English Wikipedia seems to have been unblocked in most provinces in China, while users were still unable to access the Chinese version in certain provinces, varying by ISP. By November, both versions seemed to be accessible in all provinces and by all ISPs. The end of the block coincided with the Chinese Wikipedia's 100,000th article milestone.

The first block had an effect on the vitality of Chinese Wikipedia, which suffered sharp dips in various indicators such as the number of new users, the number of new articles, and the number of edits. In some cases, it took anywhere from six to twelve months in order to recover to the levels of May 2004.

On July 31, 2008, the BBC reported that the Chinese Wikipedia had been unblocked that day in China; it had still been blocked the previous day. This came within the context of foreign journalists arriving in Beijing to report on the upcoming Olympic Games, and websites such as the Chinese edition of the BBC were being unblocked following talks between the International Olympic Committee and the Games' Chinese organisers.


Access to the Persian Wikipedia was blocked for a few days by some ISPs in Iran. Keyword-based censorship of URLs however continually affects Wikipedia and many other websites.

Wikimedia website was blocked for a few days in Tunisia (November 23 - November 27, 2006).
Access to Uzbek Wikipedia was blocked in Uzbekistan on January 10, 2008; the block was lifted 5 March, 2008. This was the second time Wikipedia had been blocked in Uzbekistan; the first case was in 2007.


Access to Arabic Wikipedia has been blocked since 30 April 2008 and has not been lifted yet. (Other languages are accessible).

Wikipedia history in images

Traffic, size and growth
(See also: )

English article count milestones
Date number
April 2003 125,000
April 2004 250,000
March 17, 2005 500,000
March 1, 2006 1,000,000
September 10, 2007 2,000,000

See also


External links

Wikipedia records and archives

Wikipedia's project files contain a large quantity of reference and archive material. Useful resources on Wikipedia history within Wikipedia are:Historical summaries

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