Wikipedia (IPA: /ˌwikiˈpiːdi.ə/ or /ˌwɪkiˈpiːdi.ə/) is a multilingual, web-based, free content encyclopedia project. Wikipedia is written collaboratively by volunteers from all around the world. With rare exceptions, its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the Internet, simply by clicking the edit this page link. The name Wikipedia is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a type of collaborative website) and encyclopedia. Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown rapidly into one of the largest reference Web sites.
In every article, links will guide the user to associated articles, often with additional information. Anyone is welcome to add information, cross-references or citations, as long as they do so within Wikipedia's editing policies and to an appropriate standard. One need not fear accidentally damaging Wikipedia when adding or improving information, as other editors are always around to advise or correct obvious errors, and Wikipedia's software, known as MediaWiki, is carefully designed to allow easy reversal of editorial mistakes.
Because Wikipedia is an ongoing work to which, in principle, anybody can contribute, it differs from a paper-based reference source in important ways. In particular, older articles tend to be more comprehensive and balanced, while newer articles may still contain significant misinformation, unencyclopedic content, or vandalism. Users need to be aware of this to obtain valid information and avoid misinformation that has been recently added and not yet removed (see Researching with Wikipedia for more details). However, unlike a paper reference source, Wikipedia is continually updated, with the creation or updating of articles on topical events within minutes or hours, rather than months or years for printed encyclopedias.
Wikipedia is a registered trademark of the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, which has created an entire family of free-content projects. On all of these projects, you are welcome to be bold and edit articles yourself, contributing knowledge as you see fit in a collaborative way.
For more details on this topic, see History of Wikipedia.
Wikipedia was founded as an offshoot of Nupedia, a now-abandoned project to produce a free encyclopedia. Nupedia had an elaborate system of peer review and required highly qualified contributors, but the writing of articles was slow. During 2000, Jimmy Wales, founder of Nupedia, and Larry Sanger, whom Wales had employed to work on the project, discussed ways of supplementing Nupedia with a more open, complementary project.
On the evening of January 2, 2001, Sanger had a conversation over dinner with Ben Kovitz, a computer programmer, in San Diego, California. Kovitz, who was a regular on "Ward's Wiki" (the WikiWikiWeb), explained the wiki concept to Sanger. Sanger saw that a wiki would be an excellent format whereby a more open, less formal encyclopedia project could be pursued. Sanger easily persuaded Wales, who had already been introduced to the wiki concept, to set up a wiki for Nupedia, and Nupedia's first wiki went online on January 10.
There was considerable resistance on the part of Nupedia's editors and reviewers to the idea of associating Nupedia with a website in the wiki format, so the new project was given the name "Wikipedia" and launched on its own domain, wikipedia.com, on January 15 (now called "Wikipedia Day" by some users). The bandwidth and server (in San Diego) were donated by Wales. Other current and past Bomis employees who have worked on the project include Tim Shell, one of the cofounders of Bomis and its current CEO, and programmer Jason Richey. The domain was eventually changed to the present wikipedia.org when the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation was launched as its new parent organisation, prompting the use of a .org domain to denote its non-commercial nature. In March 2007, the word wiki became a newly recognised English word.
In May 2001, a wave of non-English Wikipedias was launched — in Catalan, Chinese, Dutch, Esperanto, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish; these were soon joined by Arabic and Hungarian. In September, Polish was added and further commitment to the multilingual provision of Wikipedia was made. At the end of the year, Afrikaans, Norwegian, and Serbocroatian versions were announced.
Main articles: Wikipedia:Who writes Wikipedia and Wikipedia:Wikipedians
Tens of thousands of regular editors — from expert scholars to casual readers — can edit Wikipedia, an openness that encourages inclusion of a tremendous amount of content.
Several mechanisms are in place to help Wikipedia members carry out the important work of crafting a high-quality resource while maintaining civility. Editors can watch pages and techies can write editing programs to keep track of or rectify bad edits. Over 1,000 administrators with special powers ensure that behavior conforms to Wikipedia guidelines and policies. When a few situations are still unresolved after all other consensus remedies have failed, a judicial committee steps in and decides to withdraw or restrict editing privileges or to take other corrective measures.
Although the Wikimedia Foundation owns the site, it is largely uninvolved in writing and daily operations.
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