Wikipedia: The Creation and Success History of Wikipedia

In 2021, the “main internet directory” celebrated its 20th anniversary. The idea of “Nupedia” (a new encyclopedia) originated with two friends — businessman Jimmy Wales and Doctor of Philosophy Larry Sanger in 2000. 

A year later, the friends launched the Wikipedia website, unaware that it was destined to become one of the main online information portals for all mankind.

In this article, we will lift the veil of secrecy and tell you about the history of the creation and success of this information platform.

Previously, we’ve already talked about Wikileaks’ creation. You can read about it here.

The creation of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia

The idea of concentrating all knowledge in one place came to mankind back in the days of the Pergamon and Alexandria libraries, but the modern understanding of the word “encyclopedia” arose only in the era of Denis Diderot (18th century). 

Wikipedia history

With the development of the internet, many people were haunted by the idea of a universal online directory. The first such project was Interpedia. The immediate predecessor of Wikipedia was Nupedia, an early (and no longer existing) project of Jimmy Wales and Larry Singer.

The future creators of Wikipedia were constantly looking for ways to add materials even faster. They decided to use Ward Cunningham’s wiki engine technology. As a result, on January 15, 2001, a new project appeared on a personal domain: The very first page was HomePage, created on January 16, 2001 at 19:27 UTC. Among reputable publications, The New York Times was the first to talk about Wikipedia, on September 20, 2001.

In simple words, Wikipedia is a worldwide online encyclopedia, articles for which are written and edited by users themselves on their own initiative — that is, freely.

Such a democratic approach should ideally exclude unscrupulous manipulation by the “regime” and provide all citizens with free access to reliable information.

The founding fathers of the Wikipedia project were imbued with approximately such ideas when they dreamed of creating an encyclopedia that we ourselves would compile. And no political intrigues would stir up or slow down the universal desire for the common good and justice.

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The creators of Wikipedia — who are they?

The idea to launch an encyclopedic online project with freely editable user content arose in the bright minds of the employees of the earlier encyclopedic internet resource “Nupedia,” intended only for expert authors. Therefore, the internet encyclopedia has two “dads” at once:

  • Jimmy Donal Wales (born 1966). Known by the nickname Jimbo, he is an American and British online businessman. Jimmy Donal Wales is considered not only the founder of Wikipedia, but also the ideologist of the entire Wiki concept. The entrepreneur is the honorary Chairman of the Wikimedia Foundation. In parallel, he holds the post of Adviser on openness and public policy at the UK government body. Among his recent projects are Wikitribune (2017), aimed at combating fake news, and the social network WT: Social (2019).
  • Larry Sanger (born 1968). Co-founder and editor-in-chief of Wikimedia while working at Bomis. Lowrance Mark Sanger, a part-time PhD, resigned on March 1, 2002, saying that working for the project did not bring him a single cent of financial remuneration. Two years later, Lawrence added that the reason for leaving was the “poisonous social and political atmosphere,” which he could not put up with. In 2015, the creator’s statements became even more frank: he shared that Wikipedia was seized by “trolls” and now it looks like a “mental hospital run by crazy people.”

Name and logo: what does it mean?

Why wiki? How does this relate to an encyclopedia, even a digital one? The explanation was given by Ward Cunningham, the inventor of wiki technology: “wiki in Hawaiian means ‘fast’.” Initially, he wanted to call the technology Fast Internet Access — “high-speed Web.” However, the final name of the engine was “Wiki Wiki Web” — a reference to “WWW” (World Wide Web).

Wikipedia logo

Since Wikipedia is based on Cunningham’s technology, that explains the name: Wiki + pedia (from the word “encyclopedia”). The name is based on the system proposed by Ward: a user follows the link, and if he does not find the necessary information there, he can enter it himself. So the reader turns into a co-author.

The modern Wiki logo traces its history back to 2010: it is a kind of globe made up of puzzle pieces, and its upper part is not complete. Each element of the mosaic is marked with one of the languages in which the free encyclopedia is written. The fact that the sphere is not finished symbolizes the possibility of adding new content and a purely philosophical concept: it is impossible to achieve absolute completeness of knowledge.

The author of the idea of the globe puzzle is Paul Stancifer. However, the now-familiar image was presented by David Friedland. According to the author’s idea, symbols from various languages were inscribed on individual elements of the mosaic. Consonant with the sound in particular, he used Chinese, Armenian, Khmer, Latin, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Thai, Arabic, Tibetan, Greek writing. 

In the original version, there was even a letter from the “Klingon alphabet,” developed by linguist Mark Okrand specifically for the Star Trek film universe. In 2009, it was replaced with a symbol from the real Ethiopian alphabet.

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Wiki-engine features

The technological platform for the implementation of an internet resource on which users themselves can create, publish, and edit content is classified as a “wiki engine” — a specific kind of CMS (content management system.)

There are three main types of wiki platforms.

  1. 1. Public wikis with free access for visitors to edit and create content.
  2. 2. Corporate wikis. As the name implies, these are systems for document exchange and remote collaboration on projects within the same organization.
  3. 3. Private wiki-CMS for the implementation of personal diaries, travel journals, everything that is called a web-log, or a “blog” today.

The specific characteristics of wiki engines are in the simplicity and speed of working with content. The author of the publications does not require knowledge of programming, HTML markup, or complex web technologies.

Anyone can take part in filling the site with content and editing finished articles as part of a public wiki project. Often, even registration is not required, you can participate in the life of the community anonymously.

Wikipedia’s advantages and disadvantages

– What is the main advantage of Wikipedia?

The fact that Wikipedia articles are written in a simple language understandable even to non-expert internet users.

Wikipedia pluses and minuses

Every user from time to time has to deal with incomprehensible terms and previously unknown phenomena. Wikipedia is rushing to the aid of all those who are hungry for knowledge! Ask absolutely any question on the topic “what is…” in Google search and one of the first answers will be a link to the universal reference — Wikipedia.

– Why the user network encyclopedia was not named “Know-it-All”?

The fact is there is no perfect knowledge in the world. Recently, authoritative opinions have begun to be expressed that Wikipedia can be used by special services to manipulate public opinions.

Wiki encyclopedia administrators shyly refer to such invasions as “advertising content.”

Publications are indeed edited, and fake information is deleted. However, there is always a small “dead time zone” for several days while the information stuffing is in the public domain, and millions of people around the world may be misinformed.

It turns out that even if the fake article was corrected, millions of people still remain firmly convinced that the provocative information thrown in is the encyclopedic content from the most authoritative internet resource.

And yet, the free encyclopedia itself has become the object of widespread citation. Any fake is instantly replicated around the world on thousands of resources that sincerely consider themselves “honest and independent.”

– What is the main disadvantage of Wikipedia?

In fact, most users have no idea that Wikipedia articles are written by ordinary people.

In fact, trolling and information vandalism on Wikipedia are common phenomena that they are trying to fight, but without much success.

Many people sincerely believe that Wikipedia articles are written by university professors and academics with academic degrees and publications in reputable scientific publications.

But in reality, the article you are reading could well have been written by a strange neighbor.


Wikipedia is one of the most grandiose educational projects of our time. It appeals to us with the principle of a “free and open book”: every internet user can contribute to its development. The reader becomes a co-author, a co-creator. Openness and open-mindedness have made Wikipedia the largest and most popular online directory. In terms of thematic coverage and volume of data, it has long since become the most complete encyclopedia ever created by mankind.


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