More than 300,000 new articles were created in the last 12 months
alone, making Wikipedia the world's largest and fastest-growing open
content encyclopedia. Every day, another two thousand articles are
added to this collaborative endeavour. All articles on Wikipedia can be
edited and improved by anyone at any time. The English-language
Wikipedia has also revamped the design of its front page and created a
community portal to welcome new editors.
Presently, the greatest increase in growth is in the
non-English editions, demonstrating the increasingly multilingual
nature of the undertaking. In fact, there are now more articles in
other languages combined than there are in English. Ten Wikipedia
versions now have over 10,000 articles each (rounded to the nearest
- English (213,000)
- German (54,000)
- Japanese (32,000)
- French (28,000)
- Polish (24,000)
- Swedish (22,000)
- Dutch (21,000)
- Spanish (18,000)
- Danish (16,000)
- Esperanto (11,000)
An additional eighteen have more than 1,000 articles (rounded to the nearest hundred):
- Italian (6,400)
- Catalan (5,400)
- Chinese (5,000)
- Hebrew (4,700)
- Romanian (4,600)
- Slovenian (3,900)
- Finnish (3,700)
- Croatian (3,100)
- Estonian (2,800)
- Interlingua (2,600)
- Norwegian (2,500)
- Afrikaans (2,100)
- Portuguese (2,000)
- Latin (1,900)
- Russian (1,600)
- Walloon (1,300)
- Czech (1,200)
- Malay (1,100)
This surge in growth has, according to Alexa.com,
resulted in Wikipedia.org surpassing Britannica.com, Infoplease.com and
Encyclopedia.com in terms of its Internet traffic rank and has placed
Wikipedia.org firmly within the top 1,000 websites that Alexa tracks.
"Wiki" principle enabled early, rapid growth
Wikipedia is a public WikiWikiWeb, where anyone can edit nearly any page at any time. Wiki wiki
means "quick" in Hawaiian: no registration or special knowledge is
required to participate. Users build upon one another's edits, working
together even on sensitive issues, by trying to find a neutral point of
view. Incorrectly edited pages are quickly repaired by others.
The Wikipedia project was founded in January 2001 by Internet entrepreneur Jimmy Wales and philosopher Larry Sanger. Bomis (bomis.com),
an Internet web portal owned by Wales, supplied the financial backing
and other support, while Sanger led the Wikipedia project during its
first year, as a full-time paid editor. Since then it has operated
mostly on consensus, using policies refined over time by its
The project has recently been transferred from Bomis to the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation (wikimediafoundation.org). Bomis still provides free bandwidth and basic server maintenance to Wikimedia.
Jimmy Wales comments that "Wikipedia owes its success to the
presence of a strong core group of well-educated and articulate
contributors from around the world who together maintain community
standards of civility, quality and neutrality." Explaining one of the
mechanisms to ensure that the article quality remains high, he said,
"Participants all keep a watchful eye over the 'recent changes' page.
They edit each other's work constantly." Even articles covering
controversial topics can be worked on using this process.
The motivation of Wikipedians is very different, but all share a love
of knowledge. "For years, I've been collecting old almanacs and
encyclopedias," comments Oliver Brown, who writes under the nickname
"Kingturtle". "To stumble on a thriving community devoted to sharing
information gave me a tremendous thrill and a curious sense of relief."
Wikipedia has been the subject of articles in the news media, among them, The New York Times, MIT's Technology Review, and TIME magazine, as well as, articles on high-profile technology websites such as Slashdot, Wired, and Kuro5hin. More recently, Wikipedia has been featured on news programs, such as National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and CNN's television program TechWatch.
It is also increasingly being used as a reference source by students,
journalists, organizations, and any other individual who needs a
starting point for doing Internet research.
All Wikimedia content is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License,
which permits anyone to reuse Wikimedia content in any way they wish,
including commercially, as long as they, too, pass on that right to
others and credit the editors of the particular Wikimedia project as
MediaWiki (mediawiki.org), the software that runs the various Wikimedia projects, is also available for free under the terms of the GNU General Public License,
the same license used by the free GNU/Linux operating system. "The
MediaWiki software is the best solution yet to the problem of easily
creating and maintaining hypermedia," says Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. of
Aperture Technologies, Inc. The company uses MediaWiki to run an
internal wiki knowledge base. "In the six weeks since it has been made
available internally, it has already become an indispensable part of
our development department's operation."
With edits being made every minute of every day, it is
impossible to predict where Wikipedia and its sister projects will be
one year from now. Thanks to the GNU licenses, however, one thing is
certain: the content, and the software that serves it, will remain
Sister projects seek to emulate success
On June 20th 2003, the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation (wikimediafoundation.org) was created to manage and fund the operations of Wikipedia and its sister projects. These include:
- Wiktionary, a multilingual dictionary and thesaurus (wiktionary.org)
- Wikiquote, a compendium of famous quotations (wikiquote.org)
- Wikibooks, a collection of e-book resources, aimed at the needs of students (wikibooks.org)
- Wikisource, a repository of public domain historical documents and books (wikisource.org).
Since its first fundraising appeal in December 2003, the Wikimedia
Foundation has raised nearly US$40,000 to support these projects, half
of which has already been invested in infrastructure. See wikimediafoundation.org/fundraising for more information.
This press release was created collaboratively by Wikipedians from many different countries.
For questions and interviews, please contact:
Jimmy Wales, Chairman, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (English only)
Andrew Lih, Asia region press contact, Hong Kong, China (English, Chinese Putonghua)
Robert Merkel, Australian region press contact, Melbourne, Australia (English only)
For further background information, please see:
This press release was collaboratively drafted on the Wikimedia Foundation's wiki (meta.wikipedia.org - page history).
Before its release it was edited 259 times by 37 different volunteer
authors, and drafted in 18 different languages. The text of this press
release is placed into the public domain.