The idea of the gathering worldwide knowledge in one place is an ancient one. There have been millions of encyclopedias on various subjects giving a complied knowledge of the subject.  The emergence of information technology at the end of 20th century brought a new chapter in the way information was gathered leading to changes in concept of encyclopedias. Notable book-based encyclopedias like Encyclopædia Britannica were transformed by Microsoft’s Encarta in 1993. They were now available on hyperlinked and CD-ROM. The World Wide Web encouraged attempts to develop an internet based encyclopedia. In 1933, Rick Gates proposed a web-based encyclopedia called Interpedia, but this project did not materialized.  The usefulness of a “Free Universal Encyclopedia and Learning Resource” was described by Richard Stallman, a Free software proponent in 1999. Wikipedia was established on Wednesday 17 January 2001, and today the FSF encourages people “to visit and contribute to Wikipedia.

Bomis, a web-advertising firm owned by Jimmy Wales, Michael E. Davis, and Tim Shell volunteered the Wales-founded Nupedia, a project that produced a free online encyclopedia and initially Wikipedia was conceived as a feeder project for Nupedia.  Using highly qualified contributors Nupedia was founded along with an extravagant peer review process which was multi-stepped. It had a list of interested editors along with a well qualified a full-time editor-in-chief named Larry Sanger who was a graduate philosophy student that was hired by Wales. But even after that the content written for Nupedia was not fast at all, in fact during the first year only 12 articles written.

Seeing this slow pace of Nupedia Wales and Sanger started discussing various ways to create content which was fast. During a conversation between Ben Kovitz and Larry M. Sanger the idea of a wiki-based complement founded its origination.  Ben Kovitz, a computer programmer and someone who was a regular on the Ward Cunningham’s revolutionary wiki called “the WikiWikiWeb”. It was difficult to understand the concept of ‘wikis’ which Kovitztried to explain to Sanger over a dinner in the year 2001. It was later in the same year, during October that Wales stated first, where he said that Larry had the idea to use Wiki software. But he later changed the statement in December 2005 saying that it was Jeremy Rosenfeld, a Bomis employee, who tells him about the concept of wikis. Using the wiki according to Sanger was a good platform to be used. He proposed this concept on the Nupedia mailing list that a wiki based upon UseModWiki (then v. 0.90) be set up as a “feeder” project for Nupedia.


Therefore in 2001, the license for Nupedia was changed to GFDL which lead Wales and Sanger to launch Wikipedia which used the concept and technology of a wiki pioneered in 1995 by Ward Cunningham. When Wikipedia was started the intention to for it was to complement Nupedia, which was an online encyclopedia project that time that concentrated on editing solely by experts, also providing additional draft articles and ideas for it. But as time went by,Wikipedia was quick to overtake Nupedia. Thus, it soon became a global project that was used in multiple languages and as inspiring a varied range ofmany online references projects and still continues to do so.

Flash-forwarding to July 2015, Wikipedia comprises of more than 35 million freely usable articles in that range in 291 languages. These articles have been written by more than 56 million registered users including a huge number of anonymous contributors’ world over. It is believed that ‘Wikipedia is the world’s seventh-most-popular website in terms of overall visitor traffic’, according to Alexa Internet. The monthly readership world over of Wikipedia is around 495 million as observed by comScore. Over and above this Wikipedia receives more than 117 million monthly ‘unique visitors’ from the United States.