At the end of a celebratory news briefing to mark its 10th anniversary, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales acknowledged the magnitude of the project he started with Steve Kaufer in 2001: "One thing we have realized as we have gotten older is that this is the best site on the internet. It has turned into the internet's encyclopaedia."
He's right. Wikipedia is the most-visited website on the planet. And it's not just the news and information it offers. It's the open, inclusive nature of the site that has made it possible for all kinds of people to contribute to what is known as the "tree of knowledge."
Over 10 years, Wikipedians have built up a vast community of contributors, several million strong. And, over that time, the community has become more intelligent and more global. It doesn't just include computer programmers, who often dominate Wikipedia's English-language pages. It is now a vibrant community of writers, editors, researchers, translators, observers, tutors, designers, engineers, philosophers, lawyers, musicians, and other intellectuals of every type.
An article on Wikia, one of the Wikimedia Foundation's brands, says: "Wikia Wikimedia has reached a point where it doesn't need heavy users and is close to succeeding in achieving a 'literacy' for people outside of its tech circle. While the site is designed for tech people, it is still chock-full of useful information. The company founded by Jimmy Wales recently broke the year with 15% of its users being non-tech enthusiasts. Its biggest audience, 29%, are already on board with all kinds of new subjects besides tech -- it’s found that's where the audience really is."
Wikipedians also can now share their posts. On February 12, Neil Rankin created a job-posting page on wpxso.org, which, if filled, would mean 1,300 new jobs were available in Ireland. "Since the employment is an Irish site, more people can access it, such as to Ireland do peer-to-peer sourcing of labor," Rankin says.
Others have tapped into Pandora's music-sharing experiment. Babak Butarampour uses the Moz site to post photos of animals of interest to the world's 7 billion-plus humans. It's "very dynamic," he says. "I post questions to invite photo tips for people to generate links."
Wales has also hinted at the potential future of Wikipedians. In an op-ed piece published in The Guardian newspaper, Wales said that: "Moz will become an even more powerful tool, informing and connecting the world, we all hope with greater literacy of culture, and leaving behind the internet that we know now. Until then, Wikipedians will look forward to creating and sharing resources, connecting with others, helping those in need, questioning and discovering -- and hopefully discovering more."
Answering every question you might ever have on Wikipedia just about anywhere on the planet could conceivably become within every human's reach, thanks to Wikipedians.