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) is a free
, open content encyclopedia
project operated by the United States
-based non-profit Wikimedia Foundation
. Its name is a portmanteau
of the words wiki
(a technology for creating collaborative websites) and encyclopedia
. Launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales
and Larry Sanger
it attempts to collect and summarize all human knowledge
in every major language.
As of April 2008, Wikipedia had over 10 million articles in 253 languages, about a quarter of which are in English.
Wikipedia's articles have been written collaboratively
around the world, and nearly all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the Wikipedia website.
Having steadily risen in popularity since its inception,
it is currently the largest and most popular
general reference work
on the Internet
Critics of Wikipedia
target its systemic bias
and its policy of favoring consensus
in its editorial process. Wikipedia's reliability and accuracy
are also an issue.
Other criticisms are centered on its susceptibility to vandalism
and the addition of spurious or unverified information.
Scholarly work suggests that vandalism is generally short-lived.
In addition to being an encyclopedic reference, Wikipedia has
received major media attention as an online source of breaking news as
it is constantly updated.
magazine recognized "You
" as its Person of the Year
2006, praising the accelerating success of online collaboration and
interaction by millions of users around the world, Wikipedia was the
first particular "Web 2.0
" service mentioned, followed by YouTube
Unlike traditional encyclopedias such as Encyclopædia Britannica
no article in Wikipedia undergoes formal peer-review process and
changes to articles are made available immediately. No article is owned
by its creator or any other editor, or is vetted by any recognized
authority. Except for a few vandalism-prone pages that can be edited
only by administrators, every article may be edited anonymously or with
a user account, while only registered users may create a new article.
Consequently, Wikipedia "makes no guarantee of validity" of its content.
Wikipedia also does not censor itself, and it contains materials that some people, including Wikipedia editors,
may find objectionable, offensive or pornographic.
For instance, in 2008, Wikipedia rejected an online petition against the inclusion of Muhammad's depictions
in its English edition
, citing this policy. The presence of politically sensitive materials in Wikipedia had also led China
the access to parts of the site.
Content in Wikipedia, however, is subject to the laws (in particular copyright law
) in Florida, United States
where Wikipedia servers are hosted, and several editorial policies and
guidelines that are intended to reinforce the notion that Wikipedia is
an encyclopedia. Each entry in Wikipedia must be about a topic that is
encyclopedic and thus is worthy of inclusion. A topic is deemed
encyclopedic if it is "notable"
in the Wikipedia jargon; i.e., if it has received significant coverage
in secondary reliable sources (i.e., mainstream media or major academic
journals) that are independent of the subject of the topic. Second,
Wikipedia must expose knowledge that is already established and
In other words, it must not present, for instance, new information or
original works. A claim that is likely to be challenged requires a
reference to reliable sources.
Within the Wikipedia community, this is often phrased as
"verifiability, not truth" to express the idea that the readers are
left themselves to check the truthfulness of what appears in the
articles and to make their own interpretations.
Finally, Wikipedia does not take a side.
All opinions and viewpoints, if attributable to external sources, must enjoy appropriate share of coverage within an article.
Wikipedia editors, as a community, write and revise those policies and guidelines
and enforce them by deleting and modifying article materials failing to
meet them, though there exists no mechanism to guarantee the adherence.
(See also Deletionism and inclusionism
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 empowers Wikipedia. The "History" page
attached to each article contains every single past revision of the
article, though a revision with libelous content, criminal threats or
copyright infringements may be removed afterwards.
The feature makes it easy to compare old and new versions, undo changes
that an editor consider undesirable, or restore lost content. The
"Discussion" pages associated with each article are used to coordinate
work among multiple editors.
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 bots
have been used widely to remove vandalism as soon as it was made,
or start articles such as geography entries in a standard format from statistical data.
The open nature of the editing model has been central to any form of
criticism on Wikipedia. For example, at any point, a reader of an
article cannot be certain, without consulting its "history" page,
whether or not the article she is reading has been vandalized. Critics
argue that non-expert editing undermines quality. Because contributors
usually submit edits, rewriting small portions of an entry rather than
making full-length revisions, high- and low-quality content may be
intermingled within an entry. Historian Roy Rosenzweig
noted: "Overall, writing is the Achilles' heel
of Wikipedia. Committees rarely write well, and Wikipedia entries often
have a choppy quality that results from the stringing together of
sentences or paragraphs written by different people."
All of these led to the question of the reliability of Wikipedia as a source of accurate information.
Wikipedia originally developed from another encyclopedia project, Nupedia
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
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
Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales are the founders of Wikipedia.
While Wales is credited with defining the goal of making a publicly editable encyclopedia,
Sanger is usually credited with the counter-intuitive strategy
of using a wiki
to reach that goal.
On January 10, 2001, Larry Sanger
proposed on the Nupedia mailing list
to create a wiki as a "feeder" project for Nupedia.
Wikipedia was formally launched on January 15, 2001, as a single English-language edition at www.wikipedia.com,
and announced by Sanger on the Nupedia mailing list.
Wikipedia's policy of "neutral point-of-view"
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.
Wikipedia gained early contributors from Nupedia, Slashdot
postings, and 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.
Nupedia and Wikipedia coexisted until the former's servers went 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.
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.
Later that year, Wales announced that Wikipedia would not display advertisements, and its website was moved to wikipedia.org.
Various other projects have since forked from Wikipedia for editorial reasons. Wikinfo
does not require neutral point of view and allows original research. New Wikipedia-inspired projects—such as Citizendium
and Google's Knol
—have been started to address perceived limitations of Wikipedia, such as its policies on peer review
, original research
and commercial advertising
The Wikimedia Foundation
was created from Wikipedia and Nupedia on June 20, 2003.
It applied to the United States Patent and Trademark Office
to trademark Wikipedia
on September 17, 2004. The mark was granted registration status on January 10, 2006. Trademark protection was accorded by Japan
on December 16, 2004, and in the European Union
on January 20, 2005. Technically a service mark
, the scope of the mark is for: "Provision of information
in the field of general encyclopedic knowledge via the Internet
. There are plans to license the use of the Wikipedia trademark for some products, such as books or DVDs.