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Wikipedia at 20: last gasp of an internet vision, or a beacon to a better future?

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January 15, 2021 at 01:11PM

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The naysayers said the user-written encyclopedia would never work. Now it boasts 55m articles and 1.7bn visitors a month

Twenty years ago today, a tech startup called Nupedia launched a side project. The company had been hard at work producing a free online encyclopaedia, but it was slow going: its strict editing process, comprehensive peer-review and focus on expert authors meant it finished only 21 articles in its first year.

The side project would do away with all of that. Instead, anyone would be able to write and edit articles. Nupedia’s founders were split over whether the trade-off – more content with a lower barrier to entry – was worth it, but by the end of its first year, the side project had amassed articles on more than 18,000 topics. Nupedia, by the time it shut in 2003, had finished just 25.

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