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Wikipedia turns 20 years old today — the free encyclopedia gets more traffic than Netflix

MarketWatch logo MarketWatch 1/15/2021 Syd Stone
a group of stuffed animals sitting on top of a desk © MarketWatch photo illustration/iStockphoto|, Wikipedia

Twenty years ago today, the internet was changed forever.

Wikipedia was launched on Jan. 15, 2001, by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger as an English-language encyclopedia, according to — aptly — Wikipedia.

Since then, the website has become every undergrad’s first stop when embarking on a research paper, the go-to site for cheating in trivia, and my personal favorite — The Wiki Game.

Wikipedia is the 13th most popular website on the internet, ahead of Netflix and Reddit. With 55 million articles, the site attracts 1.5 billion unique visitors a month.

Here are some facts and figures:

Wikipedia’s nonprofit structure has mostly protected it from the spread of viral misinformation, Wales said in a 2018 keynote address on “the future role for evidence-based journalism” at the Westminster Media Forum, an international conference organized by the British Parliament.

Wikipedia is supported by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, and its revenue comes from grants and user donations, not advertising or investors.

“In this era, where we’ve seen the rise of these fake news websites and so forth, Wikipedia has had almost no problems with this at all,” Wales said in the address. “Simply because our community is quite — you know, it’s their hobby to debate about the quality of sources, and it’s very difficult to fool the Wikipedia community with this.”

“It motivates me to know that Wikipedia and the movement are built day by day, with each individual contribution, and that we still have much to learn from new voices. There are no limits to participating and contributing. If you don’t do it, who will?,” Mónica Paola Bonilla-Parra, a linguist and researcher featured on Wikipedia’s 20th birthday celebration website, said.

But the website is far from perfect.

According to its own Wikipedia page, “Wikipedia has been criticized for its uneven accuracy and for exhibiting systemic bias, including gender bias, with the majority of editors being male.”

This week, the top three trending Wikipedia articles are on the late actress Tanya Roberts, Netflix’s period drama Bridgerton and, unsurprisingly, the 25th Amendment.

See also: What to know about the 25th Amendment as calls for President Trump’s removal grow louder

So for the next 20 years, keep on researching, editing and falling down Wikipedia rabbit holes.


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