"Hello, World!" – the first edit to the Home Page of what would become "the largest and most-read reference work in history"
Jimmy Wales launched Wikipedia
on 15 January 2001 by installing an early version of Ward Cunningham’s wiki software on a server. Following that installation, he typed in the first line of custom text to appear on the site: “Hello, World!” This NFT embodies Wales’s first edit and a recreation of Wikipedia
as it appeared in its first moments of existence, based on code within the earliest extant backup of the site. In addition, Wales has created a dynamic component to the NFT
that allows the page to be edited, together with a built-in timer that resets the page to its original state. In his words: "The idea is not just to have an NFT of this moment in time, but to have an NFT which recreates the emotional experience of the moment: here it is, Wikipedia, ready to edit. What will you make of it? What will it become? Will it succeed? Can it really change the world?"
The appearance of the site as it was in early 2001 evokes nostalgia for many, but it also reminds us of how far we have come from the “wild west” days. Indeed early wikis existed almost as performance art projects. Because they tended to keep no (or little) history of revisions, they were deliberately and purposefully vulnerable. The original Usemod wiki software that Wales installed in 2001 was so open that it didn’t even use passwords for logins and edits—anyone could log in under any name at any time. Additionally edits made before creating an account were identified by the computer network from which they were made—which is why the first edit is attributed simply to Office.Bomis.Com. Wales soon added the ability to login, which meant that users—even under pseudonyms—had a track record which helped to generate accountability and trust.
Another revolutionary feature was Wikipedia’s lack of separation between “articles” and “discussion.” At the suggestion of Tim Shell, Wales’s business partner at Bomis and early Wikipedia
editor, the community adopted a convention of creating a talk page for each article so that the article itself would always be maintained as a readable “best efforts” encyclopedia article, with discussion of how to improve the page taking place on a companion page.Wikipedia’s
open door editor policy was highly idealistic. By decentralizing publication control of knowledge and subverting historical barriers of entry, access to the both the creation and consumption of information became more equitable. At the same time, the upper limit of pages was only capped by the ability and imagination of editors. Without a pre-selected pool of jurors, articles could be spun-off, expanded or elaborated by successive and exponentially growing generations. As for security, or in the case of Wikipedia
, information accountability, the continuity of editors provided a historical backstop that hedged against bad-faith editors and a strict reference system kept unsubstantiated claims at bay (or at minimum, flagged to users).
Simple, traceable editing, a feature that enabled the free and open collaboration that made Wikipedia
so successful, was of course one of the main attractions of this new means to assemble and aggregate the body of human knowledge. Wales often fondly recalls his very first edit, employing the typical greeting when one develops a new code or platform: “Hello, World!” But this edit, entered the same day of Wikipedia's
launch, was lost amidst another edit, because, according to Wales, "the only way to delete things back then was to go into the command line of the server and delete the file…."
EditThisNFT is presented on a page with recreates, as closely as closely as technically possible, the home page of Wikipedia on 15 January 2001, when the site was still in its embryonic form and yet to become the ubiquitous reference source we often take for granted today.
Wales also includes a statement of purpose in his NFT which reads in part:
"The website is a standard LAMP stack website running a wiki script - the earliest known version of Usemod Wiki, version 0.91 by Clifford Adams. Running this script from scratch, I was able to create a replica of the homepage of Wikipedia *before anyone else ever saw it or edited*, the moment when I installed the software for the first time and typed 'Hello, World!' By fiddling with the clock on the server, I was able to make sure that the time stamp is as accurate as possible - the edit was made in the morning in California, and the server is running in UTC. A cron job resets the site to the original database every 5 minutes. The NFT contains on the permaweb not just a jpeg of the original look of the homepage after I typed 'Hello, World!', but also the source code and the original data. The display (animation_url) is the live website url."
"I am happy to transfer the domain name to the buyer and offer some technical assistance if necessary to regime the server. I can even update the metadata in case somehow the owner of this token ever loses control of that domain name. All these design decisions were made to create a real permanence for this work of art, while also reflecting the reality of how to do a recreation of the dynamic experience in the first days of Wikipedia."Proceeds from the sale will help support Wales’s alternative social media network pilot project WT.Social, an attempt to find a healthier and nontoxic alternative with existing social media platforms with a donation-only advertising-free model, as well as to help support a variety of charities working in the free culture world.