"Imagine a world in which every single person on the planetisgiven freeaccessto the sum ofallhuman knowledge. That’s what we’re doing." In August 2005, at a modest youth hostel in Frankfurt, Germany, hundreds of writers, students, computer hackers, and ordinary Internet users from around the world gathered on the grounds of Haus der Jugend on the […]

History (Wikipedia)

In less than a decade, Wikipedia has singlehandedly invigorated and disrupted the world of encyclopedias, eclipsing nearly every established tome in every language in the world. It has become so popular that people casually stumble across its content every day on the Internet, and it is increasingly referred to in books, legal affairs, and pop […]

A NUPEDIA (Wikipedia)

"Order, unity and continuity are human inventions just as truly as catalogues and encyclopedias." Charles Van Doren captivated the American public in 1957. Americans were transfixed by the televised game show Twenty-One, on which Van Doren answered question after question correctly for a run of two months starting December 5, 1956. The clean-cut Ivy League […]

What Is an Encyclopedia? (Wikipedia)

We owe the word "encyclopedia" to Classic Greek, enkyklios paideia, literally meaning a "rounded education," or something that contains the entirety of general knowledge. Attempts to gather all human knowledge go as far back as Roman times, often taking the form of specific encyclopedias created for particular disciplines and perspectives. Compared to today’s classifications of […]

Alabama Rising (Wikipedia)

With the great encyclopedias of history tracing their lineage back to Rome, Imperial China, France, and Britain, few would guess that Wikipedia’s roots could be traced back to Alabama, a U.S. state known more for civil rights struggle than for being a spawning ground for great Internet projects. Huntsville, Alabama, is where Jimmy Wales hailed […]

The Mother of All Directories (Wikipedia)

While dot-com firms in the 1990s became known for their directories and attracting advertising dollars, things started changing as a project with the strange initials DMOZ made an impact on the Internet. It was this project that would give the inspiration for Wikipedia. DMOZ was shorthand for the site’s name on the Internet—directory.mozilla .org. It […]

RMS (Wikipedia)

You can’t understand the "free" movement on the Internet without understanding Richard Stallman. A heavily bearded, iconoclastic computer programmer, Stall-man became a hacking legend at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1980s for his programming chops. His experiences as a freewheeling software developer, stifled by corporate usurping of his work, would lead him on […]

Linux on the Scene (Wikipedia)

The project that did fulfill the goal is now legend—Linux. Started by Finnish hacker Linus Torvalds as a free software project, it grew quickly and gathered volunteers from all over the world, inspired by Stallman’s vision for copying, inspecting, and improving software. It all began quite humbly when Torvalds started testing a small, basic operating […]

Remember DMOZ (Wikipedia)

So the long story of Richard Stallman, free software, Linus, Minix, and Linux brings us all the way back to DMOZ. What did this mean for the DMOZ project? By 1998 open source software had shown it was a viable competitor to commercial software in terms of quality, something people had not expected from a […]

The Nupedia Idea (Wikipedia)

The computing power and capital to take on new projects at Bomis made it the right time to fulfill a dream of Wales’s: creating an online encyclopedia. He wanted to call it Nupedia, again sticking with a GNU-inspired name, but without wanting to step on Stallman’s toes. Wales had always been a fan of Ayn […]