The word Wikipedia comes from the Hawaiian word “wiki,” which means quick.
Volunteers write for Wikipedia without pay. Most remain anonymous.
Wikipedia says the website has more than 82,000 active contributors. They have created and edited more than 19 million articles in more than 270 languages.
Wikipedia says its goals for 2015 include:
- Increase the total number of people served to 1 billion
- Increase the number of Wikipedia articles offered to 50 million
- Encourage readers to become contributors by increasing the number of total editors who make at least 5 edits per month to 200,000
Stephen Colbert is among those who have contributed to Wikipedia. He coined the term Wikiality, saying:
You see, any user can change any entry, and if enough other users agree with them, it becomes true. … If only the entire body of human knowledge worked this way. And it can, thanks to tonight’s word: Wikiality. Now, folks, I’m no fan of reality, and I’m no fan of encyclopedias. I’ve said it before. Who is Britannica to tell me that George Washington had slaves? If I want to say he didn’t, that’s my right. And now, thanks to Wikipedia, it’s also a fact. We should apply these principles to all information. All we need to do is convince a majority of people that some factoid is true. … What we’re doing is bringing democracy to knowledge.
In 2009, a Dublin student, Shane Fitzgerald, posted fake quotes on Wikipedia to see if news organizations would use the material. His phony quotes were attributed to French composer Maurice Jarre, who had died hours before Fitzgerald added the quotes to Jarre’s biography. Dozens of news entities used the quotes, which included these words:
My life has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life. Music is how I will be remembered. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head and that only I can hear.
You know what reporters say, if a quote’s too good to be true, it probably is. And in this case, it’s also an example of Wikiality.
Jimmmy Wales, born in 1966 in Huntsville, Ala., is the co-founder of Wikipedia. Here are a few items from his Wikipedia biography:
He founded Bomis, a web portal that featured male-oriented erotic pictures and other material. Bomis gave him the initial funding for Nupedia and its successor, Wikipedia.
He disputes that he was the co-founder of Wikipedia and considers himself the founder. He got into a nasty dispute with Larry Sanger over who founded Wikipedia.
In 2005, Wales drew some criticism for editing his own Wikipedia biography, which is against the website’s rules. Among his edits: He had removed references to Sanger and played down the sexual nature of Bomis. Wales later apologized.
Wales has said his goal is to give the entire world populace access to all human knowledge in their own language. He wants to reach everyone on the planet.
Wikipedia, a non-profit company, is worth an estimated $3 billion.