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The Wikipedia Begins (January 15, 2001)

The Wikipedia logo

Jimmy Wales

Larry Sanger

On January 15, 2001 American entrepreneur Jimmy Wales, American philosopher Larry Sanger, and others founded the Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, as an English language project.

"In its first year, Wikipedia generated 20,000 articles, and had acquired 200 regular volunteers working to add more (this compares with the 55,000 articles in the Columbia [Encyclopedia], all subject to rigorous standards of editing and fact-checking, though this in itself was a small-scale enterprise compared to the behemoths of the industry like the Encyclopaedia Britannica, whose 1989 edition covered 400,000 different topics). By the end of 2002, the number of entries on Wikipedia had more than doubled. But it was only in 2003, once it became apparent that there was nothing to stop it continuing to double in size (which is what it did), that Wikipedia started to attract attention outside the small tech-community that had noticed its launch. In early 2004, there were 188,000 articles; by 2006, 895,000. In 2007 there were signs that the pace of growth might start to level off, and only in 2008 did it begin to look like the numbers might be stabilising. The English-language version of Wikipedia currently has more than 2,870,000 entries, a number that has increased by 500,000 over the last 12 months. However, the English-language version is only one of more than 250 different versions in other languages. German, French, Italian, Polish, Dutch and Japanese Wikipedia all have more than half a million entries each, with plenty of room to add. Xhosa Wikipedia currently has 110. Meanwhile, the Encyclopaedia Britannica had managed to increase the number of its entries from 400,000 in 1989 to 700,000 by 2007" (Runciman, "Like Boiling a Frog," Review of "The Wikipedia Revolution" by Andrew Lih, London Review of Books, 28 May 2009, accessed 05-23-2009).