Wikipedia’s Startup Story – How Jimmy Wales Started The Biggest Online Encyclopedia is the biggest and the most popular free online encyclopedia today. Its knowledge database has been created by millions of people from all over the world. Currently, (2019) the site has more than 40 million articles in more than 293 different languages. That makes around 3.7 billion words which is 85 times more than all of the words in all 120 volumes of “Encyclopædia Britannica“. and what’s even more amazing is that all of this content was created by the 27 million registered users (voluntarily) and it’s available for free use, under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Monthly, more than 14% of all people, who use Internet visit Wikipedia. There you can find information about almost any existing topic you could imagine – from how to bake cookies to how to build a nuclear weapon and launch in it space 🙂 … It has become the 9th most popular site on Earth, according to, and now we’ll go through Wikipedia’s amazing startup story.

And here is how it all began – Wikipedia’s startup story

Once, there was a site called Nupedia – a free encyclopedia, written exclusively by professionals and specialists. It was run by a small company called “Bomis“, and one of its founders was a person named Jimmy Wales. Nupedia was intended to become one of the biggest places of knowledge on the Internet. Although, there were many volunteers who wanted to become editors of the site, it was advancing really slowly. All articles had to pass a complicated approval process, which resulted in only a few of them to be approved. After the first 1 year of existence, Nupedia, had the unimaginable number of 21 articles… they were of very high quality but yet, just 21. That was a craze… So many smart guys in one place and just 21 writings?!? The project’s chief editor was Larry Sander and he and Wales started looking for some ways to speed the things up a little. By that time, the wiki structured sites were gaining momentum. Sander thought that using a wiki platform for the site might be a nice choice and he introduced the idea to Wales. This was how the concept of Wikipedia was born back in 2001.

The official birth of the modern Wikipedia – Jan 15, 2001

Jimmy Wales in 2016

Jimmy Wales in 2016

The plans were the UseModWiki platform to be installed, where everybody would be able to publish content freely and the best of it would be used for Nupedia. So, Jimmy Wales installed a copy of the platform and put it online on the 10th of January 2001. Most of the editors of Nupedia didn’t want everyone to be able to mess with their work, that’s why they insisted on a different name to be given to the project. This is how the domain name was registered and launched five days later – on the 15th of January, 2001. This was the official birth of the site.

Wikipedia's startup story

Wikipedia Starts Growing Fast

The small site launched as a sub-project of Nupedia started growing extremely fast. Anyone could publish there and the uploaded articles didn’t require editorial review. It was no surprise that the site soon surpassed its older sister Nupedia. With more than 20 000 articles in more than 18 languages just after a year of existence, Wikipedia quickly became the main project. Initially, most of the traffic to the site was coming from the major search engines, but soon some of the biggest media spotted its growth and began writing about the online encyclopedia. It also appeared on the TV and other media channels. This boosted its popularity and in August 2002, the number of published articles reached the mind-blowing number of 40 thousand (a little humor here, today the site has 37 million pages).  in year 2000

What looked like in year 2000

The start of the project was not a problem free one. The quick growth of Wikipedia attracted hackers and some other people who started abusing the site. Also, there were no clear principles about what content should be kept online and what not. This was how The Rules of Wikipedia were created. But these were not that big issues as these that would come later. The biggest efforts of Wikipedia’s team was to keep the articles neutral, quality and accurate. Because of that, anybody could change them, this was a really tough task. Many believed that the content there was in some way biased and chunky. For example, there was a published article there, saying that Robby Williams was eating pet hamsters for a living in pubs in and around Stoke… In another one was written that David Beckham was a Chinese goalkeeper in the 18th century… Such problems are still present today, although the most common issues of this type have been addressed.

Running a big site like Wikipedia is an expensive action. The site receives huge amounts of traffic. By the beginning of 2012, the site had 10 billion views each month and currently has more than 4 million articles. Such a beast eats several millions of dollars every year in expenses… Although a single advertising banner would generate millions of dollars in revenue every month, Wales is determined no to do this and the encyclopedia remains free of ads. Wikipedia has remained totally free for use by everyone in the world. Its revenue comes exclusively from donations. Everybody who likes the project and wants to support it can do this on their donations page.

More About The Free Encyclopedia

More about the history of this great encyclopedia you can see (and even edit) here:

Wikipedia On:

Did you enjoy our brief history of the Wikipedia article? Please, don’t be shy of sharing it with friends on some social networks. This would be a great help of us! Thanks!

On the following video you can see how Wikipedia reached the people in this small village of Peru:

Please, share this post and support our site. This way you will help us write many more cool articles like this one.