Nupedia becomes Wikipedia
Originally envisioned as a peer-reviewed and edited encyclopedia in the mold of the venerable Britannica, but sourcing raw contributions not only from experts but also from the general public, Jimmy Wales and then editor-in-chief Larry Sanger realized that they needed a more efficient means of attracting more contributions. They decided to employ Ward Cunningham’s wiki software, a system that enabled users to collaboratively edit web pages, as a feeder project to inject new life in the Nupedia project—appropriately named Wikipedia.
Wikipedia launched on 15 January 2001 and the project quickly took on a life of its own–rapidly outpacing the development of Nupedia. Within a month the site hosted 1,000 articles. In May 2001, eleven non-English editions of Wikipedia had been established including versions in German, French, Italian, Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, and even Esperanto. By September 2001 the number of articles had reached 10,000, and a year later that number had doubled to 20,000. The prospect of selling advertising as a revenue stream to support Wikipedia, while contemplated at the project’s inception, was soon quashed by Wales. Advertising did not conform with Wales’s aesthetic vision for the project, and it would have flown the face of the all-volunteer ethos that had defined the project from the start. In 2003, Wales established the Wikimedia Foundation which was charged with supporting a sprawling network of volunteer writers and editors across the globe writing tens of thousands of articles in multiple languages.
From its inception, Wikipedia was, and still is, mostly the product of volunteers, or Wikipedians, who write and edit articles guided by a set of core principles that are now enshrined in the five pillars of Wikipedia. The most notable, and controversial, is the site’s commitment to writing with a neutral point of view. The other pillars include the basic guidance that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and no more, and stressing all content be verifiable from other sources and not contain original research or mere opinion; that the content is free for anyone to "use, edit, and distribute"; that contributors and editors should treat each other with "respect and civility"; and, finally, that "Wikipedia has no firm rules." The ethos was very much the embodiment of the open-source movement of the time, and signaled a new era in the history of the internet: the rise of a collaborative movement that would transform the landscape of the digital world.
At the time of writing, the size of Wikipedia has mushroomed: over 57 million articles in over 300 languages, overseen by nearly many thousands of volunteer editors who collectively have been responsible for over 3 billion edits. If the whole of Wikipedia were to appear in print, it is estimated it would require about 21,500 volumes. Wikipedia is, in its own words as "the largest and most-read reference work in history."