On this day in In 1966 Jimmy Donal Wales was born.
He and Tim Shell launched Bomis, a website offering adult material, from glamour to pornographic. It included a Babe Report that tracked celebs and models in the adult entertainment business. It also operated nekkid.info, a free site offering erotic photos.
Wales had another concept in mind when he later hired Larry Sanger. Sanger graduated in philosophy, but was perhaps wavering when he once stated in a journal he published,
‘The history of philosophy is full of disagreement and confusion.’
He was appointed editor-in-chief to develop Nupedia a web-based encyclopaedia; the business was underwritten by Bomis. The notion was to acquire expert articles on all manner of subjects that would be reviewed and published free of charge to the user.
Wales and Sanger were introduced to the concept of a ‘wiki’ by Ben Kovitz in 2001; Kovitz was a contributor to the WikiWikiWeb.
In seeking a way to make progress with Nupedia more speedy, Sanger created a wiki site which would permit the creation and editing of interlinked articles online.
Wiki was first developed by Ward Cunningham in 1995 when he developed a wiki engine for what he called WikiWikiWeb. His concept was a web application that stored all entries in files or a database format so they could be accessed with a browser. It was inspired by Apple’s HyperCard in that the entries were like a stack of cards. Sanger’s innovation was that they could be edited collaboratively.
The name ‘Wiki’ came from a Hawaiian experience when Cunningham was advised to take the Wiki-Wiki Shuttle between airport terminals. The term means quick – so wiki wiki must be very quick.
Sanger’s Wiki was originally intended as a feeder site to Nupedia, giving a means for fast entries and updates, but the notion proved so compelling the whole project was changed to become Wikipedia in January 2001.
The name, its trademark and the operation are owned by the not-for-profit Wikimedia Corporation. Wales insisted the editorial effort should not be constrained to an expert panel à la Nupedia, but instead be thrown open to all Internet users. Wikipedia outgrew Nupedia within a few days of its launch.
But Sanger was quick to notice both that it was being hijacked by those who were anti-authority and that his desire for expert articles was being overwhelmed.
In May 2001 a dozen and more non-English language Wikipedia were launched.
In February 2002 Bomis, with troubles of its own, withdrew its investment. Lacking funding himself Sanger stepped down as editor of Wikipedia in March 2002. Nupedia closed down in 2003.
After he left, Sanger was critical of the accuracy of Wikipedia and suggested that there was
‘…a certain poisonous social or political atmosphere in the project.’