Wikipedia Turns 20: A Dive into the World's Largest Open-Source Platform

By: Sashwata Saha
17 Jan 2021 12:20:15 PM Delhi

Wikipedia started 20 years ago. Today, the platform boasts 56 million articles, 15 million monthly hits and 1.7 billion unique visitors throughout its existence. Search anything online and chances are a Wikipedia article would be one of the first results, no matter what search engine you are using. According to the Alexa rankings, it is among the 15 most popular websites on the internet.


The foundation has 2.8 lakh voluntary editors who make 350 edits per minute. But when Wikipedia started, nearly 20 years back in 2001, there was no password required for editors logging in to write these articles. That was a mistake that co-founder Jimmy Wales quickly decided to fix.


“I remember going all the way back to the very, very beginning when we were just on one server. In fact, in the early days of Wikipedia, there wasn’t even a real way to log in. Anybody could pretend to be anybody else. Well, that was never going to work. So very quickly I wrote a password system,” Wales said in a Zoom call seminar with the international media.


Wikipedia has come a long way since then. On January 15, the internet’s most extensive encyclopedia marked its 20th birthday. There are now over 55 million articles on the platform, available in 316 languages, which are read about 8,000 times a second.


Underlining the core philosophies of the platform, Wales said the vision of “free access to the sum of all human knowledge,” has served them well. “We’ve never thought of ourselves as a wide-open, free speech or anarchy or democracy. We’re a project to build an encyclopedia,” Wales explained, adding that for Wikipedia, neutrality remains a core ideal.


In India, Wikipedia sees over 750 million visits each month, and it is the fifth-highest number of views from any country. While Wikipedia is available in 24 languages in India, regional languages such as Punjabi, Odia, Malayalam have far more active communities on the platform, as compared to Hindi.


The site has also invested heavily in mobile editing over the past two years to encourage participation in India. Wikipedia launched an application on KaiOS, recognised as one of the most common operating systems used across India.


As part of its 2030 vision, the Wikimedia Foundation has developed a $4.5 million equity fund that will offer grants to advance more equitable, inclusive representation in Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia. The foundation acknowledges that Wikipedia is still largely edited by men, something they wish to change.


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