Advances in information technology in the late 20th century led to changes in the form of encyclopedias. The development of the World Wide Web led to many attempts to develop internet encyclopedia projects. An early proposal for a web-based encyclopedia was Interpedia in 1993 by Rick Gates; this project died before generating any encyclopedic content. Free software proponent Richard Stallman described the usefulness of a “Free Universal Encyclopedia and Learning Resource” in 1999.
Wikipedia was initially conceived as a feeder project for the Jimmy Wales founded Nupedia, an earlier project to produce a free online encyclopedia. Wales hired a full-time editor-in-chief, Larry Sanger, a graduate philosophy student. Wales and Sanger discussed various ways to create content more rapidly. The idea of a wiki-based complement originated from a conversation between Larry Sanger and Ben Kovitz, a computer programmer and regular on Ward Cunningham’s revolutionary wiki “the WikiWikiWeb”. He explained to Sanger what wikis were, at that time a difficult concept to understand. Sanger thought a wiki would be a good platform to use, and proposed on the Nupedia mailing list that a wiki based upon UseModWiki be set up as a “feeder” project for Nupedia. Wales set one up and put it online on 10 January 2001. There was considerable resistance on the part of Nupedia’s editors and reviewers to the idea of associating Nupedia with a wiki-style website. Sanger suggested giving the new project its own name, Wikipedia, and Wikipedia was soon launched on its own domain, wikipedia.com, on 15 January. The oldest article still preserved is the article UuU, created on Tuesday 16 January 2001, at 21:08 UTC. The existence of the project was formally announced and an appeal for volunteers for content creation was made to the Nupedia mailing list on 17 January.
As of December 2014, Wikipedia includes over 34 million freely usable articles in 288 languages that have been written by over 50 million registered users and numerous anonymous contributors worldwide. According to Alexa Internet, Wikipedia is the world’s seventh-most-popular website in terms of overall visitor traffic. Wikipedia’s total worldwide monthly readership is approximately 495 million.
Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989 what is today known as the Internet. At the time, Tim was a software engineer at CERN, the large particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. Many scientists participated in experiments at CERN for extended periods of time, then returned to their laboratories around the world. These scientists were eager to exchange data and results, but had difficulties doing so. Tim understood this need, and understood the unrealized potential of millions of computers connected together through the Internet. Tim documented what was to become the World Wide Web with the submission of a proposal to his management at CERN, in late 1989. Tim’s initial proposal was not immediately accepted. However, Tim persevered.
By October of 1990, he had specified the three fundamental technologies that remain the foundation of today’s Web; HTML, URL, HTTP. Tim also wrote the first Web page editor/browser (“WorldWideWeb”) and the first Web server (“httpd“). By the end of 1990, the first Web page was served. By 1991, people outside of CERN joined the new Web community. Very important to the growth of the Web, CERN announced in April 1993 that the World Wide Web technology would be available for anyone to use on a royalty-free basis.
Since that time, the Web has changed the world. It has arguably become the most powerful communication medium the world has ever known. The Web has changed the way we teach and learn, buy and sell, inform and are informed, agree and disagree, share and collaborate, meet and love, and tackle problems ranging from putting food on our tables to curing cancer. Tim Berners-Lee and others realized that for the Web to reach its full potential, the underlying technologies must become global standards, implemented in the same way around the world. Therefore, in 1994, Tim founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as a place for stakeholders to reach consensus around the specification and guidelines to ensure that the Web works for everyone and that it evolves in a responsible manner.