Wikipedia celebrated its 20th anniversary last week with a series of virtual birthday events held around the world.
The site is home to over 55 million articles created and maintained by the more than 280,000 volunteer editors who sign in to make changes each month.
Katherine Maher, CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation – the non-profit that owns and operates Wikipedia – said she was proud of how far Wikipedia had come.
“Wikipedia has evolved from a seemingly impossible idea into a sprawling testament to humanity—a place where we can collaborate, share, and learn about anything and everything,” she said.
“It is a global effort of volunteers who elevate knowledge and cooperation over conflict and self-interest.
“We are committed to preserving the integrity and value of information at a time when the world needs it most.”
Once mocked for being an unreliable, inconsistent source of information, Wikipedia has grown into a stable place to find things out about a seemingly endless series of topics.
Tech giants have also started directing users to Wikipedia as a kind of antidote to conspiracy theories and misinformation.
Despite its inherent value as a repository of human information, Wikipedia has survived its tenure without displaying ads – except for the occasional fundraiser efforts to draw donations from the nearly seven million people who regularly fork out to keep the site running.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said the site’s consistent stance around advertising is rooted in fundamental ideals about how knowledge should be shared and distributed.
“In a world where information is increasingly commoditised, Wikipedia’s model has always been based on the belief that knowledge belongs to all humans,” Wales said.
“Wikipedia forces us to step outside of our echo chambers and contend with what a shared understanding of the world could really look like.
“After all, a Wikipedia article is the same no matter who or where you are in the world, and if something isn’t right in the article, you can change it.”
Wikipedia is hardly the free-for-all it once was. Certain pages are given various levels of protection to stop trolls or vandals from causing too much harm.
The site boasts that most instances of ‘vandalism’ are detected and managed within five minutes.
As a sign of how much Wikipedia is valued as a record of human achievement, the Arch Mission Foundation launched a copy of Wikipedia into orbit in 2018 as part of its aim to fill the solar system with information about humankind.