On Wikipedia’s 15th birthday: 10 interesting facts about the online encyclopedia

By Jayesh Shinde | Published on 15 Jan 2016

Did you know that Wikipedia is originally developed from a pre-existing encyclopedia project? That it’s the seventh most visited website in the world? Available in over 275 languages?

On Wikipedia’s 15th birthday: 10 interesting facts about the online encyclopedia

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Everybody’s favourite online reference and research destination, Wikipedia celebrates its 15th anniversary today. Yes, it was on this day, 14 years ago that Wikipedia came to being, thanks to the efforts of Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger – its co-creators.

To celebrate its 15th birthday, Wikipedia is asking users to tweet out their stories and impressions of the free online encyclopedia. To read what Wikipedia means to its users, check out their website-- You can write your own comments about what you feel about Wikipedia, how it has impacted your life, etc. 

While Wikipedia’s trustworthiness and authenticity will be questioned as long as it remains in its current format, since it isn’t a peer-reviewed or scholarly source of information as vouched for by professional digital encyclopedias (like Microsoft Encarta or Encyclopaedia Britannica), there can be no doubt that Wikipedia’s “open content” policy (which means anyone can copy and edit its content) has greatly democratized information and knowledge in the age of the internet. 

However, the Wikipedia Project was starkly different before its inception than what it is now. You view that story best told by Jimmy Wales himself in this insightful TED video

Here are 10 stats and milestones of Wikipedia, in no particular order:

  • Wikipedia initially began as Nupedia, an English-language encyclopedia that started in March 2000. Unlike Wikipedia, Nupedia wasn’t a wiki – it had a long peer-review process and the focus was on scholarly articles with no compromise on quality. Before it shut down, Nupedia could only get 25 articles up online – the ones that had completed its peer review process. No wonder it was too slow and ditched, giving birth to Wikipedia as it exists now.

  • Wikipedia became one of the top 10 websites on the World Wide Web back in 2007. Currently, it’s the seventh most visited website in the world. 

  • Wikipedia has approximately 80,000 volunteer editors. The website receives just under 1000 new entries per day.

  • Back in 2007, Wikipedia had about 9.25 million pages in 253 languages. As of yesterday, there are 291 Wikipedias of which 280 are active, and the English Wikipedia alone has over 5 million articles with over 38 million wiki pages.

  • As of 2013, Wikipedia has over 41 million registered users across all its various editions. Total number of Wikipedia English users as of last night was over 27 million. The numbers are mind-boggling, don’t you think?

  • Wikipedia’s vision is to support a free, fair and open Internet and to preserve this basic tenet it has gone “dark” or been made “temporarily inaccessible” in support of causes like Net Neutrality, SOPA and PIPA in the US.

  • Wikipedia is operated by Jimmy Wales’ Wikimedia Foundations, which also runs Wiktionary (a free multilingual online dictionary), Wikiquote (a repository of quotes taken from famous people, books, speeches and popular culture), Wikimedia Commons (a central repository of freely available rich media), and more. For a full list, see here. All this couldn’t have been possible without Wikipedia’s spellbound success.

  • While George W Bush’s page bags the record for the most number of edits (45,862 and counting), the second-most edited English Wikipedia article of all time is about a list of WWE personnel. Who could’ve guessed?

  • According to a 2005 report in the study journal Nature, articles selected from Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica were sent for peer review. It found four factual errors each in Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica entries, and 162 minor errors as opposed to only 123 in the Britannica. This report was cited by Wikipedia as a proof of its almost accurate content pieces. Can’t ask for much more if it’s free, right?

  • Wikipedia editors and contributors are known as “Wikipedians”. You can become one, too – just create an account to share something within Wikipedia or edit an article anonymously. Don’t forget to cite your sources, though.

NOTE: All the facts and figures mentioned in this article were researched and referenced from… you guessed it… Wikipedia. Long may it live into the future!


Jayesh Shinde

Cower, puny human, for I am Big Daddy! The ground rumbles beneath my feet, the very air you breathe resonates to my primal roar. Mere mortals, I am the scourge of the n00bs, destroyer of worlds. Fear my might, tremble in my presence.

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