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Wikipedia’s forgotten creator

By Gregory Kohs

Wikipedia is one of the world’s ten most-used websites, right up there with the likes of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, and Amazon. However, it is the only non-profit, educational site in the top 50, inspiring at least some of its hundreds of millions of monthly readers to pitch in and edit their way to an even better repository of the world’s knowledge. Every year in December, the face of Jimmy Wales appears on the site, making his annual appeal for cash donations. He has become a sort of global ambassador for Wikipedia, recognized by millions of people.

Dr. Larry Sanger, forgotten creator of Wikipedia

Dr. Larry Sanger, forgotten creator of Wikipedia


However, Wales is not the man who truly launched Wikipedia.

The honorable distinction of bringing life to Wikipedia rests with a philosopher and educator named Dr. Larry Sanger. You see, what Wales had co-created was another encyclopedia called Nupedia. Wales hired Sanger to work as Nupedia’s editor-in-chief. But using a strict process that limited to experts the contribution of articles, Nupedia wasn’t going anywhere. So, on January 2, 2001, at a burrito dinner shared with a computer programmer, Sanger was introduced to a new revision-storing editing software called “wiki”. Over the next few days, Sanger championed what was considered a crazy idea at the time — what if the encyclopedia were opened up so that anyone could write and modify it?



Sanger asked Wales to install some wiki freeware on the Nupedia server, Sanger named the new encyclopedia project “Wikipedia”, and Sanger issued the first public call for participation in the Wikipedia adventure, with a fateful yet humble mailing list post:

http://www.wikipedia.com/ Humor me.

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