2004 Wikipedia Press Release

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Wikipedia publishes 500,000 articles in 50 languages  (2004) 
by the Wikimedia Foundation

This press release was collaboratively drafted at the Wikimedia Foundation's wiki meta.wikimedia.org; you can read its page history). Before its release it was edited 259 times by 37 different volunteer authors, and drafted in 18 different languages. The text of this press release is placed into the public domain by its authors.

February 25, 2004 (The Internet): Wikipedia (Wikipedia.org), a volunteer-created, multi-language encyclopedia, announced today that the project has reached a milestone of 500,000 articles, spread across 50 different languages.

More than 300,000 new articles were created in the last 12 months alone, making Wikipedia the world's largest and fastest-growing open content encyclopedia. Every day, another two thousand articles are added to this collaborative endeavour. All articles on Wikipedia can be edited and improved by anyone at any time. The English-language Wikipedia has also revamped the design of its front page and created a community portal to welcome new editors.

Presently, the greatest increase in growth is in the non-English editions, demonstrating the increasingly multilingual nature of the undertaking. In fact, there are now more articles in other languages combined than there are in English. Ten Wikipedia versions now have over 10,000 articles each (rounded to the nearest thousand):

An additional eighteen have more than 1,000 articles (rounded to the nearest hundred):

This surge in growth has, according to Alexa.com, resulted in Wikipedia.org surpassing Britannica.com, Infoplease.com and Encyclopedia.com in terms of its Internet traffic rank and has placed Wikipedia.org firmly within the top 1,000 websites that Alexa tracks.

"Wiki" principle enabled early, rapid growth[edit]

Wikipedia is a public WikiWikiWeb, where anyone can edit nearly any page at any time. Wiki wiki means "quick" in Hawaiian: no registration or special knowledge is required to participate. Users build upon one another's edits, working together even on sensitive issues, by trying to find a neutral point of view. Incorrectly edited pages are quickly repaired by others.

The Wikipedia project was founded in January 2001 by Internet entrepreneur Jimmy Wales and philosopher Larry Sanger. Bomis (bomis.com), an Internet web portal owned by Wales, supplied the financial backing and other support, while Sanger led the Wikipedia project during its first year, as a full-time paid editor. Since then it has operated mostly on consensus, using policies refined over time by its contributors.

The project has recently been transferred from Bomis to the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation (wikimediafoundation.org). Bomis still provides free bandwidth and basic server maintenance to Wikimedia.

Jimmy Wales comments that "Wikipedia owes its success to the presence of a strong core group of well-educated and articulate contributors from around the world who together maintain community standards of civility, quality and neutrality." Explaining one of the mechanisms to ensure that the article quality remains high, he said, "Participants all keep a watchful eye over the 'recent changes' page. They edit each other's work constantly." Even articles covering controversial topics can be worked on using this process.

The motivation of Wikipedians is very different, but all share a love of knowledge. "For years, I've been collecting old almanacs and encyclopedias," comments Oliver Brown, who writes under the nickname "Kingturtle". "To stumble on a thriving community devoted to sharing information gave me a tremendous thrill and a curious sense of relief."

Wikipedia has been the subject of articles in the news media, among them, The New York Times, MIT's Technology Review, and TIME magazine, as well as, articles on high-profile technology websites such as Slashdot, Wired, and Kuro5hin. More recently, Wikipedia has been featured on news programs, such as National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and CNN's television program TechWatch. It is also increasingly being used as a reference source by students, journalists, organizations, and any other individual who needs a starting point for doing Internet research.

All Wikimedia content is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, which permits anyone to reuse Wikimedia content in any way they wish, including commercially, as long as they, too, pass on that right to others and credit the editors of the particular Wikimedia project as the source.

MediaWiki (mediawiki.org), the software that runs the various Wikimedia projects, is also available for free under the terms of the GNU General Public License, the same license used by the free GNU/Linux operating system. "The MediaWiki software is the best solution yet to the problem of easily creating and maintaining hypermedia," says Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. of Aperture Technologies, Inc. The company uses MediaWiki to run an internal wiki knowledge base. "In the six weeks since it has been made available internally, it has already become an indispensable part of our development department's operation."

With edits being made every minute of every day, it is impossible to predict where Wikipedia and its sister projects will be one year from now. Thanks to the GNU licenses, however, one thing is certain: the content, and the software that serves it, will remain free.

Sister projects seek to emulate success[edit]

On June 20th 2003, the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation (wikimediafoundation.org) was created to manage and fund the operations of Wikipedia and its sister projects. These include:

  • Wiktionary, a multilingual dictionary and thesaurus (wiktionary.org)
  • Wikiquote, a compendium of famous quotations (wikiquote.org)
  • Wikibooks, a collection of e-book resources, aimed at the needs of students (wikibooks.org)
  • Wikisource, a repository of public domain historical documents and books (wikisource.org).

Since its first fundraising appeal in December 2003, the Wikimedia Foundation has raised nearly US$40,000 to support these projects, half of which has already been invested in infrastructure. See wikimediafoundation.org/fundraising for more information.

This press release was created collaboratively by Wikipedians from many different countries.

Additional information[edit]

For questions and interviews, please contact:

Jimmy Wales, Chairman, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (English only)
Phone: (+1)-727-527-9776
Email: jwales@bomis.com

Andrew Lih, Asia region press contact, Hong Kong, China (English, Chinese Putonghua)
Phone: (+852)-9759-0220
Email: alih@hku.hk

Robert Merkel, Australian region press contact, Melbourne, Australia (English only)
Phone: (+61)-425-712-883
Email: rgmerk@mira.net

For further background information, please see: