An Introduction

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Wikipedia began as a complementary project for Nupedia, a free online English-language encyclopedia project whose articles were written by experts and reviewed under a formal process. Nupedia was founded on March 9, 2000, under the ownership of Bomis, Inc, a web portal company. Its main figures were Jimmy Wales, Bomis CEO, and Larry Sanger, editor-in-chief for Nupedia and later Wikipedia. Nupedia was licensed initially under its own Nupedia Open Content License, switching to the GNU Free Documentation License before Wikipedia's founding at the urging of Richard Stallman.[22]

Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia.[23][24] While Wales is credited with defining the goal of making a publicly editable encyclopedia,[25][26] Sanger is usually credited with the strategy of using a wiki to reach that goal.[27] On January 10, 2001, Larry Sanger proposed on the Nupedia mailing list to create a wiki as a "feeder" project for Nupedia.[28] Wikipedia was formally launched on January 15, 2001, as a single English-language edition at,[29] and announced by Sanger on the Nupedia mailing list.[25] Wikipedia's policy of "neutral point-of-view"[30] was codified in its initial months, and was similar to Nupedia's earlier "nonbiased" policy. Otherwise, there were relatively few rules initially and Wikipedia operated independently of Nupedia.[25]
Wikipedia gained early contributors from Nupedia, Slashdot postings, and web search engine indexing. It grew to approximately 20,000 articles and 18 language editions by the end of 2001. By late 2002, it had reached 26 language editions, 46 by the end of 2003, and 161 by the final days of 2004.[31] Nupedia and Wikipedia coexisted until the former's servers were taken down permanently in 2003, and its text was incorporated into Wikipedia. English Wikipedia passed the 2 million-article mark on September 9, 2007, making it the largest encyclopedia ever assembled, eclipsing even the Yongle Encyclopedia (1407), which had held the record for exactly 600 years.[32]
Citing fears of commercial advertising and lack of control in a perceived English-centric Wikipedia, users of the Spanish Wikipedia forked from Wikipedia to create the Enciclopedia Libre in February 2002.[33] Later that year, Wales announced that Wikipedia would not display advertisements, and its website was moved to[34] Various other projects have since forked from Wikipedia for editorial reasons. Wikinfo does not require a neutral point of view and allows original research. New Wikipedia-inspired projects — such as Citizendium, Scholarpedia, Conservapedia, and Google's Knol[35] — have been started to address perceived limitations of Wikipedia, such as its policies on peer review, original research, and commercial advertising.
Though the English Wikipedia reached 3 million articles in August 2009, the growth of the edition, in terms of the numbers of articles and of contributors, appeared to have abruptly flattened around Spring 2007.[36] In July 2007, about 2,200 articles were added daily to the encyclopedia; as of August 2009[update], that average is 1,300. A team led by Ed H Chi at the Palo Alto Research Center speculated that this is due to the increasing exclusiveness of the project. New or occasional editors have significantly higher rates of their edits reverted (removed) than an "elite" group of regular editors.[citation needed] This could make it more difficult for the project to recruit and retain new contributors, over the long term resulting in stagnation in article creation. Others prefer to simply point out that the low-hanging fruit, the obvious articles like China, already exist, and believe that the growth is flattening naturally.[37]

Nature of Wikipedia

In April 2009, the Wikimedia Foundation conducted a Wikipedia usability study, questioning users about the editing mechanism.[38]In departure from the style of traditional encyclopedias, Wikipedia employs the open editing model called "wiki". Except for a few vandalism-prone pages that can be edited only by established users, or in extreme cases only by administrators, every article may be edited anonymously or with a user account, while only registered users may create a new article (only in English edition). No article is owned by its creator or any other editor, or is vetted by any recognized authority; rather, the articles are collectively owned by a community of editors.[39]

Most importantly, when changes to an article are made, they become available immediately before undergoing any review, no matter if they contain an error, are somehow misguided, or even patent nonsense. The German edition of Wikipedia is an exception to this rule: it has been testing a system of maintaining "stable versions" of articles,[40] to allow a reader to see versions of articles that have passed certain reviews. The English edition of Wikipedia plans to trial a related approach.[41][42] Another proposal is the use of software to create "trust ratings" for individual Wikipedia contributors and using those ratings to determine which changes will be made visible immediately.[43]

Editors keep track of changes to articles by checking the difference between two revisions of a page, displayed here in red.Contributors, registered or not, can take advantage of features available in the software that powers Wikipedia. The "History" page attached to each article records every single past revision of the article, though a revision with libelous content, criminal threats or copyright infringements may be removed afterwards.[44][45] This feature makes it easy to compare old and new versions, undo changes that an editor considers undesirable, or restore lost content. The "Discussion" pages associated with each article are used to coordinate work among multiple editors.[46] Regular contributors often maintain a "watchlist" of articles of interest to them, so that they can easily keep tabs on all recent changes to those articles. Computer programs called Internet bots have been used widely to remove vandalism as soon as it was made,[16] to correct common misspellings and stylistic issues, or to start articles such as geography entries in a standard format from statistical data.

Articles in Wikipedia are organized roughly in three ways according to: development status, subject matter and the access level required for editing. The most developed state of articles is called "featured article": they are precisely ones that someday get featured in the main page of Wikipedia.[47][48] Researcher Giacomo Poderi found that articles tend to reach the FA status via intensive works of few editors, and that the categories such as history, media, music and warfare have higher ratio of featured articles than those such as computing, mathematics, language & linguistics and philosophy & psychology, casting a doubt to the equation "more edits equal higher quality." In 2007, in preparation for producing a print version, the English-language Wikipedia introduced an assessment scale against which the quality of articles is judged;[49] other editions have also adopted this.In 2008, two researchers theorized that the growth of Wikipedia is sustainable.[50]

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