by Jenny Mitchell
Tomorrow you have a geography test and, (as usual) you haven’t studied a bit. Plus, you left your geography book at a friend’s house… “No problem” you think, as you grab your handy-dandy encyclopedia to look up Sri Lanka. But where did it go? Then it hits you – you left it in your backpack with your geography book - at your friends’ house! Don’t despair; enter Wikipedia, the online and completely free encyclopedia.

Nevertheless, Wikipedia is not quite as similar to the book you were about to reach for as you may have thought. It is a Wiki, a website that allows multiple users to create, modify and organize web page content in a collaborative manner. Consequently, rather than being written by a professional writer, Wikipedia articles can be written by anyone with an internet connection. Simply make an account and you may write an article on anything – even yourself!
Alright, so on Wikipedia anyone can write an article about anything they want, right?! Well no, that’s not the whole story. Even though anyone can create an article, anyone can also edit one, or even propose that that page should be deleted. However, deletion can be performed only by administrators - special site power-wielding volunteers approved by Wikipedia. Amazingly enough, roughly five thousand pages are deleted each day on Wikipedia!

Wikipedia was launched by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger in 2001, but it wasn’t their first endeavor in the field of online encyclopedias. Nupedia was launched in March 2000, and is considered the father of Wikipedia. Like Wikipedia, the idea behind Nupedia was to create a free encyclopedia that could be available to everyone. But unlike Wikipedia, Nupedia was written by experts, had an elaborate system of peer review, and as a result grew at an excruciatingly slow rate. By its termination in 2003, only 23 articles had survived the editing process and were on the web for users to read. Even as early as the year it was launched, Wales and Sanders began discussing supplementing the Nupedia project with a more open project; a Wiki. This proposition met with some opposition, so rather than starting Wikipedia as a spin-off of Nupedia, its creators decided to launch Wikipedia as a separate project with it’s own URL, The site went public on January 15, 2001; a day affectionately called “Wikipedia Day” by the site’s many fans. Later on, the Wikimedia Foundation was established, and Wikipedia’s URL was changed to

Today, Wikipedia is one of the most visited websites in the world, and it has articles in twenty different languages. So never fear, that A you’ve been hoping for may not be quite as far away as you thought…

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