Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales sat down with Jon Stewart to mark the site's upcoming 10th anniversary. It wasn't a complete love-in, but it was certainly a sign of the ubiquity of the topic-based online brand's status, spurred by its top-of-the-page high rankings in search results.
As the infamous model of globally crowdsourced content with an ad-free business model marks its first decade on January 15th, Wikipedia has withstood intense criticism about reliability, been shunned by academia, and sustained brutal edit wars, all while maintaining online dominance and consistently turning up in top 10 Google results to become the fifth biggest website in the world.
“The rise of Wikipedia seems to have afflicted some scholars with a mild case of existential panic," writes the Chronicle of Higher Education. "And understandably so: When the world’s most popular reference tool is such an egalitarian outfit, that can be interpreted as a fairly stiff challenge to the value of expertise, right?”
The "community driven" organization has a modest staff of about 50 and roughly 400 million monthly visitors. With no ad revenue, Wikipedia continues to rely on donations and grants — not to mention the free labor of its volunteer editors, with a handful featured in promos that debuted in September. As a result of its fundraising, it recently achieved its $16 million goal, part of an annual budget of $20.1 million.
As for the future, "We're going to open our first office outside of the U.S. in India to help further the growth of Wikipedia in the Indian languages," Wales told NPR host Robert Siegel. "We're focused on going forward is the expansion of Wikipedia into the languages of the developing world.”
The goal is to create a "free encyclopedia for every single person on the planet, in their own language," he added.
Wikipedia's user-generated entries are open to anyone to create and/or edit, even anonymously. The profile of contributors and editors is, on average, aged 26. “We're about 85% male, which is something we'd like to change in the future," Wales says. "We think that's because of our tech-geek roots."
Asked by Wired if he tires of defending Wikipedia’s integrity, Wales replied, “No, I don’t really get tired of it, because I think that our responsibility to help make Wikipedia as good as it possibly can be means that we have to take seriously every legitimate criticism and think about how we can improve."
What's more, he added: “We stay relevant mostly by sticking with intense passion to our mission-driven culture. We are here to provide a free, high-quality encyclopedia to every single person on the planet in their own language. It is a simple and powerful charitable mission.”
Wales hopes that Wikipedia will eventually be embraced as a credible academic source and that its use as source is no different from citing the Encyclopedia Britannica – neither of which students should be doing.
Wikipedia has created a special page for the anniversary, while users on six continents are planning commemorative events.
As it turns 10 this week, it has certainly come of age as the apogee of a disruptive, digital model – free to all, ad-atheistic, and open to anyone to contribute. Organic to its name, Hawaiian for fast, Wikipedia keeps on running.