Wikipedia is a free, multilingual, open content encyclopedia project operated by the United States-based non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its name is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites) and encyclopedia. Launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, it attempts to collect and summarize all human knowledge in every major language.
As of April 2008, Wikipedia had over 10 million articles in 253 languages, comprising a combined total of over 1.74 billion words. The English edition, the largest language edition, had over 2,400,000 articles as of July 2008. Wikipedia's articles have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world, and nearly all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the Internet. Having steadily risen in popularity since its inception, it is currently the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet.
Critics of Wikipedia target its systemic bias and inconsistencies and its policy of favoring consensus over credentials in its editorial process. Wikipedia's reliability and accuracy are also an issue. Other criticisms are centered on its susceptibility to vandalism and the addition of spurious or unverified information. Scholarly work suggests that vandalism is generally short-lived.
In addition to being an encyclopedic reference, Wikipedia has received major media attention as an online source of breaking news as it is constantly updated. When Time Magazine recognized "You" as its Person of the Year 2006, praising the accelerating success of on-line collaboration and interaction by millions of users around the world, Wikipedia was the first particular "Web 2.0" service mentioned, followed by YouTube and MySpace.
Wikipedia in Brief
Slogan :The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.
Alexa rank: #8
Type of site: Online encyclopedia
Available language(s): 236 active editions (253 in total)
Owner :Wikimedia Foundation
Created by :Jimmy Wales, Larry Sanger
Launched: January 15, 2001(2001-01-15)
Current status: perpetual work-in-progress
Wikipedia began as a complementary project for Nupedia, a free online English-language encyclopedia project whose articles were written by experts and reviewed under a formal process. Nupedia was founded on March 9, 2000, under the ownership of Bomis, Inc, a web portal company. Its main figures were Jimmy Wales, Bomis CEO, and Larry Sanger, editor-in-chief for Nupedia and later Wikipedia. Nupedia was licensed initially under its own Nupedia Open Content License, switching to the GNU Free Documentation License before Wikipedia's founding at the urging of Richard Stallman.
Visitors to wikipedia.org in 2008 Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales are the founders of Wikipedia While Wales is credited with defining the goal of making a publicly editable encyclopedia, Sanger is usually credited with the counter-intuitive strategy of using a wiki to reach that goal. On January 10, 2001, Larry Sanger proposed on the Nupedia mailing list to create a wiki as a "feeder" project for Nupedia. Wikipedia was formally launched on January 15, 2001, as a single English-language edition at www.wikipedia.com, and announced by Sanger on the Nupedia mailing list. Wikipedia's policy of "neutral point-of-view" was codified in its initial months, and was similar to Nupedia's earlier "nonbiased" policy. Otherwise, there were relatively few rules initially and Wikipedia operated independently of Nupedia.
Wikipedia gained early contributors from Nupedia, Slashdot postings, and search engine indexing. It grew to approximately 20,000 articles, and 18 language editions, by the end of 2001. By late 2002 it had reached 26 language editions, 46 by the end of 2003, and 161 by the final days of 2004. Nupedia and Wikipedia coexisted until the former's servers went down permanently in 2003, and its text was incorporated into Wikipedia. English Wikipedia passed the 2,000,000-article mark on September 9, 2007, making it the largest encyclopedia ever assembled, eclipsing even the Yongle Encyclopedia (1407), which had held the record for exactly 600 years.
Citing fears of commercial advertising and lack of control in a perceived English-centric Wikipedia, users of the Spanish Wikipedia forked from Wikipedia to create the Enciclopedia Libre in February 2002. Later that year, Wales announced that Wikipedia would not display advertisements, and its website was moved to wikipedia.org. Various other projects have since forked from Wikipedia for editorial reasons. Wikinfo does not require neutral point of view and allows original research. New Wikipedia-inspired projects — such as Citizendium, Scholarpedia, Amapedia and Google's Knol — have been started to address perceived limitations of Wikipedia, such as its policies on peer review, original research and commercial advertising.
The Wikimedia Foundation was created from Wikipedia and Nupedia on June 20, 2003. It applied to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to trademark Wikipedia on September 17, 2004. The mark was granted registration status on January 10, 2006. Trademark protection was accorded by Japan on December 16, 2004, and in the European Union on January 20, 2005. Technically a service mark, the scope of the mark is for: "Provision of information in the field of general encyclopedic knowledge via the Internet". There are plans to license the use of the Wikipedia trademark for some products, such as books or DVDs.
Software and hardware
The operation of Wikipedia depends on MediaWiki, a custom-made, free and open source wiki software platform written in PHP and built upon the MySQL database. The software incorporates programming features such as a macro language, variables, a transclusion system for templates, and URL redirection. MediaWiki is licensed under the GNU General Public License and used by all Wikimedia projects, as well as many other wiki projects.
Originally, Wikipedia ran on UseModWiki written in Perl by Clifford Adams (Phase I), which initially required CamelCase for article hyperlinks; the present double bracket style was incorporated later. Starting in January 2002 (Phase II), Wikipedia began running on a PHP wiki engine with a MySQL database; this software was custom-made for Wikipedia by Magnus Manske. The Phase II software was repeatedly modified to accommodate the exponentially increasing demand. In July 2002 (Phase III), Wikipedia shifted to the third-generation software, MediaWiki, originally written by Lee Daniel Crocker.
Wikipedia currently runs on dedicated clusters of GNU/Linux servers, 300 in Florida, 26 in Amsterdam, and 23 in Yahoo!'s Korean hosting facility in Seoul. Wikipedia employed a single server until 2004, when the server setup was expanded into a distributed multitier architecture. In January 2005, the project ran on 39 dedicated servers located in Florida. This configuration included a single master database server running MySQL, multiple slave database servers, 21 web servers running the Apache HTTP Server, and seven Squid cache servers.
Wikipedia receives between 20,000 and 45,000 page requests per second, depending on time of day. Page requests are first passed to a front-end layer of Squid caching servers. Requests that cannot be served from the Squid cache are sent to load-balancing servers running the Linux Virtual Server software, which in turn pass the request to one of the Apache web servers for page rendering from the database. The web servers deliver pages as requested, performing page rendering for all the language editions of Wikipedia. To increase speed further, rendered pages for anonymous users are cached in a distributed memory cache until invalidated, allowing page rendering to be skipped entirely for most common page accesses. Two larger clusters in the Netherlands and Korea now handle much of Wikipedia's traffic load.
Labels: history of wiki, wikipedia