Wikipedia, the online editable encyclopedia which has revolutionised the way we access information online, celebrates its 10th anniversary on Saturday. In the last decade the site with humble beginnings has made an astonishing impact on the internet, thanks to its pioneering collaborative model that allows anyone to edit and add information on any topic.
Wikipedia has smashed conventional business and publishing norms with more than 26-million entries, yet it employs only 50 people worldwide and remains a non-profit organisation. With more than 410 million unique visitors a month according to comScore, Wikipedia is now the fifth most-visited site in the world.
Due to the fact that the site is heavily referenced and linked to by millions of websites around the world, the site ranks highly in many Google searches.
The community of core Wikipedia editors — anyone who makes at least five edits a month — includes almost 100 000 volunteers across the world, some of them anonymous.
This “anyone can edit” approach has raised some concerns in the academic world, sparking the debate that Wikipedia is unsuitable for academic documents.
“Wikipedians are typically really, really smart. Jimmy [Wales] often calls them smart geeks. And so there is a show off tendency as well, they know a lot of stuff and they are proud of themselves and so in writing an article they are showing the world how smart they are,” said Executive Director of Wikimedia Foundation, Sue Gardner.
Wikipedia is operated by The Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organisation established by Wales in 2003. Last year, Google donated US$2-million to the Wikimedia Foundation to help Wikipedia’s quest to remain free of advertising.
Today, Wikipedia is available in more than 250 languages, is read by hundreds of millions across the world and edited by millions of Wikipedians.
“Wikipedia turned out to be more successful than anybody ever imagined or ever even aspired for it to be. It took on a life of its own and became this hugely popular thing,” said Gardner.
Wikipedia is set to open its first office outside the United States in India with the aim of increasing awareness of the open-source encyclopedia in the rapidly growing economy.
To commemorate its 10th year Wikipedia has created a “Wikipedia Timeline” detailing important article and movement milestones in the life of the site. For example, its inception in 2001, switching to Phase II software in 2002 and the creation of Wikimedia Macedonia, Philippines and Estonia in 2010.
A page, Wikipedia 10, has also been created to allow users to set up events all around the world. There are currently more than 346 events listed on the page. Three of these events will be held in South Africa. Students in Pietermaritzburg and Stellenbosch will be partying in honour of Wikipedia and the people from software development company, Information Logistics, will be celebratingat Cape Town’s Century City.