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Wikipedia turns 10 – founder outlines future plans

Wikipedia plans to simplify and expand
Wikipedia 10th anniversary logo

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, is celebrating its 10th birthday today. Launched on 15 January 2001, it’s now the world’s fifth most highly-trafficked website, pulling in more than 400m users.

Its founder, Jimmy Wales, recently told the BBC that many people found Wikipedia too complicated to edit. Nonetheless, there are now more than 17 million articles in 270 languages on the site, and over 1 billion edits. 

Almost all Wikipedia articles can be edited by anyone visiting the website, an experimental approach which has revolutionised online reference sources over the past decade.

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Mr Wales said that Wikipedia aims to increase its user base to 1 billion by 2015, but this would require a new website interface. ‘We have to support our old power users because they built the site, but we also need to have a ramp for new users,’ he said.

He continued by saying that a lot of people were put off contributing to Wikipedia because of the complicated code, known as Wiki mark-up, which formats the encyclopedia’s entries.

Wikipedia funded by donations

Wikipedia, which is operated as a not-for-profit organisation funded by users’ donations, raised £10m in 2010’s online fundraiser, and Mr Wales said that despite the donation model potentially constraining the potential for the site to grow, he would not be changing the way Wikipedia is financed.

‘We don’t have a lot of money – we are running a website with 408m visitors on just over $20m,’ he said. ‘I think we’re the most efficient charity there is by a long shot, in terms of the number of people we impact for a small amount of money.’

In terms of international expansion, Wikipedia is reported to be planning an office in India – its first outside the USA. Mr Wales told Reuters: ‘The biggest priority for us is diversifying the contributor base, and we mean that both in English Wikipedia – we want to diversify the kinds of people who are contributing – but also geographically.’

Wikipedia is celebrating its 10th anniversary with more than 400 events, both online and offline, around the world on 15 January 2011.

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