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Wikipedia[note 3] is a multilingual free online encyclopedia written and maintained by a community of volunteers, known as Wikipedians, through open collaboration and using a wiki-based editing system. Wikipedia is the largest and most-read reference work in history. It is consistently one of the 10 most popular websites ranked by Similarweb and formerly Alexa; as of 2022,[update] Wikipedia was ranked the 5th most popular site in the world. It is hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, an American non-profit organization funded mainly through donations.
Various collaborative online encyclopedias were attempted before the start of Wikipedia, but with limited success. Wikipedia began as a complementary project for Nupedia, a free online English-language encyclopedia project whose articles were written by experts and reviewed under a formal process. It was founded on March 9, 2000, under the ownership of Bomis, a web portal company. Its main figures were Bomis CEO Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, editor-in-chief for Nupedia and later Wikipedia. Nupedia was initially licensed under its own Nupedia Open Content License, but before Wikipedia was founded, Nupedia switched to the GNU Free Documentation License at the urging of Richard Stallman. Wales is credited with defining the goal of making a publicly editable encyclopedia, while Sanger is credited with the strategy of using a wiki to reach that goal. On January 10, 2001, Sanger proposed on the Nupedia mailing list to create a wiki as a \"feeder\" project for Nupedia.
Jimmy Wales has described Wikipedia as \"an effort to create and distribute a free encyclopedia of the highest possible quality to every single person on the planet in their own language\". Though each language edition functions more or less independently, some efforts are made to supervise them all. They are coordinated in part by Meta-Wiki, the Wikimedia Foundation's wiki devoted to maintaining all its projects (Wikipedia and others). For instance, Meta-Wiki provides important statistics on all language editions of Wikipedia, and it maintains a list of articles every Wikipedia should have. The list concerns basic content by subject: biography, history, geography, society, culture, science, technology, and mathematics. It is not rare for articles strongly related to a particular language not to have counterparts in another edition. For example, articles about small towns in the United States might be available only in English, even when they meet the notability criteria of other language Wikipedia projects.
Wikipedia Zero was an initiative of the Wikimedia Foundation to expand the reach of the encyclopedia to the developing countries by partnering with mobile operators to allow free access. It was discontinued in February 2018 due to lack of participation from mobile operators.
The most obvious economic effect of Wikipedia has been the death of commercial encyclopedias, especially printed versions like Encyclopædia Britannica, which were unable to compete with a product that is essentially free. Nicholas Carr's 2005 essay \"The amorality of Web 2.0\" criticizes websites with user-generated content (like Wikipedia) for possibly leading to professional (and, in his view, superior) content producers' going out of business, because \"free trumps quality all the time\". Carr wrote, \"Implicit in the ecstatic visions of Web 2.0 is the hegemony of the amateur. I for one can't imagine anything more frightening.\" Others dispute the notion that Wikipedia, or similar efforts, will entirely displace traditional publications. Chris Anderson, the former editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, wrote in Nature that the \"wisdom of crowds\" approach of Wikipedia will not displace top scientific journals with rigorous peer review processes.
Several free-content, collaborative encyclopedias were created around the same period as Wikipedia (e.g. Everything2), with many later being merged into the project (e.g. GNE). One of the most successful early online encyclopedias incorporating entries by the public was h2g2, which was created by Douglas Adams in 1999. The h2g2 encyclopedia is relatively lighthearted, focusing on articles which are both witty and informative.
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