Why is Wikipedia called that

20 years of Wikipedia: Founder Jimmy Wales on the beginnings

As of: January 15, 2021 9:24 a.m.

On January 15, 2001, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia was founded. In the meantime it has become a kind of basic knowledge in the world. Founder Jimmy Wales talks about the beginnings.

by ARD correspondent Marcus Schuler

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia is one of the most accessed pages on the Internet. There are articles in around 300 languages. Jimmy Wales is one of the founders of Wikipedia. He says: "A lot of people work here with great passion. This community checks that our rules are being adhered to. This is what sets us apart from many other offers on the Internet. We are here to help one another and to share knowledge."

The now 54-year-old American is still one of the most important minds in the Wikipedia universe. "Back then, we copied the original idea of ​​Wikipedia from the growing open source software community. At the same time, however, we are organized decentrally - like a small town." Everyone pursues their areas of interest. Nevertheless, they have a common task: to run an encyclopedia. "If we had organized ourselves as a forum where everyone could write something, we would not have lasted that long," says Wales.

3.5 million volunteer contributors to Wikipedia

More than three million volunteers write, edit, and review the articles. The special feature: The offer is still non-commercial, the non-profit organization is financed solely from donations. "If this model didn't work so well, we would have to look for other sources of income. That would be unhealthy for us." One would try to get as many clicks as possible, says Wales. "But then we would no longer be a place for collected knowledge."

English language Wikipedia: More than six million articles

The largest offer is the English-language Wikipedia version with a good 6.1 million articles. Followed by a Filipino and Swedish language version, but some of the texts are created automatically. In fourth place is the German Wikipedia edition with currently 2.5 million articles. "The German edition has a reputation for being very serious. I am always asked why is that? I always say that the Germans are smart and good-looking. Seriously, there is a great tradition in Germany for encyclopedias like Brockhaus. That's why Wikipedia is so popular here. "

Wikipedia: Banned in some autocratic countries

Wikipedia is not popular in all countries in the world: China, Iran and Uzbekistan have blocked the site. In Russia an "alternative" loyal to the government is being worked on. But false news or even conspiracy myths are also the order of the day in the home country of the USA. "It's really hard to fool the Wikipedia community," says the Wikipedia founder. "We have been dealing with and discussing our sources for years. It depends on the community. Sources and confirmation are central to us."

Wales sees the disappearance of local journalism as a particular challenge for the future. "Without good journalism, the first draft of current history cannot be recorded. This is a challenge for our societies. We have to ask ourselves how can we secure the funding of good journalism?"

In Germany, at least, Wikipedia does not have to worry too much about the next generation, there is now a children's Wikipedia - the Klexikon.

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NDR Info | Culture | 01/15/2021 | 8:55 am