The 20th anniversary of Wiki, why is it the “Internet miracle”?


Source: geek Park
Author: BIU
If Wikipedia had not been founded in those days, it would not have been born in today’s fragmented and commercialized Internet world.
What Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales didn’t expect is that the knowledge Republic he created has become the first miracle of the 21st century.
On January 15, Wikipedia celebrated its 20th birthday. Nearly 300000 “Wikipedians” volunteer their time every day to write, edit, research and delete. This largest online encyclopedia is being written, erased and rebuilt every minute. As long as you click “Edit” on the entry page, you can change from “reader” to “editor”.
The mission of Wales to Wikipedia is “the free encyclopedia”: it is a “free encyclopedia” as well as a “free encyclopedia”. Yes, it has always kept the promise of “free for all.” there is no funding, no advertising, and Wikipedia’s revenue comes from charitable grants and user funding. Last year, Wikipedia raised $120 million in donations, more than 85% of which came from voluntary donations.
By the beginning of 2021, there were 55 million Wikipedia entries in hundreds of languages. Wikipedia is now the 13th most visited website in the world, ahead of Netflix and instagram. Today, it seems to be the general existence of Internet “infrastructure”. At a time when fake news and conspiracy theories are flooding social platforms, the pursuit of a neutral and more credible Wikipedia is a quiet corner in the center of the information storm, where people find the protection of knowledge.
In addition to the identity of “the founder of Wikipedia”, Wales is usually regarded as a combination of the following three identities: benevolent dictator, constitutional monarch and spiritual leader visual China
But you may not know that in the beginning, Wikipedia was just a “by-product.”.
In 2000, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger founded nupedia. They wanted experts in various fields to write content and submit it to peer review. Finally, nupedia became a professional encyclopedia. But the development of nupedia is too slow. A year later, only 21 articles passed the review. The founders proposed to introduce a model called Wiki to the bottleneck of nupedia. Wiki is a hypertext system, which allows everyone in a specific group to browse, create and modify the text, and can effectively control and manage different versions of the system, and also can keep all the modification records. But the experts who participate in the operation are worried that UGC content will greatly damage the integrity and credibility of information, and most of them do not agree with the introduction of “everyone participates in editing” mode.
But the miracle of embracing grassroots professionalism has not been stifled. This tool, which is considered to be a supplement to the professional encyclopedia, changed its name to Wikipedia, and went online a few days later. Over the past 20 years, it has indeed become, as Wales hoped, “a world in which everyone can obtain all human knowledge for free.”.
“If Wikipedia had not been founded in those days, it would not have been born in today’s fragmented and commercialized Internet world.” Katherine Maher, CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation, once said. It can be said that the existence of Wikipedia itself is a miracle.
A 2018 study estimated that American consumers are willing to pay about $150 a year for Wikipedia. If true, in the United States alone, the site is worth about $42 billion a year.
Wikipedia is invaluable in the future. There is a saying that artificial intelligence is actually data intelligence. In the present and future of human-computer integration, Wikipedia’s rich, neutral, deep and structured text will nourish Machine Algorithms and models, which is the premise for machines to understand human beings. The voice assistant you use most every day is also trained with Wikipedia based data sets.
Compared with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who are making a lot of money every day, it is reported that Jimmy Wales is only worth $1 million. The history of Wikipedia can be said to be the history of “money without profit”.
In August 2002, Wales took Wikipedia’s domain name Change to . com is a business domain suffix, while. Org stands for a non-profit organization. It’s worth mentioning that when you enter the And press the Enter key, it will still stubbornly jump to .
“Wikipedia is 20 years old. What will it look like in another 20 years?” Many people have asked about it these days, and Wales said, “I think for most people, it will still be the same as it is now.” In his view, many people are trapped in the “information cocoon room” at present, while others are crazy about national and ethnic divisions, and Wikipedia will always be the bridge to promote people’s understanding. The knowledge that people enthusiastically share is also the brick and tile of this bridge.
It’s a great honor that in January 2018, Wales personally visited the geekpark if conference to tell the story of Wikipedia and discuss the relationship between knowledge and platform What he said will eventually help you understand why Wikipedia is a miracle, a miracle of innovation.
The following is a dialogue between Zhang Peng, founder of geek Park, and Jimmy Wales (edited by geek Park)
Zhang Peng: very good. You speak very fast. It’s really amazing. We have an AI translation on the screen. We can see that AI translation is really good. Only machines can understand your fast speaking speed.

My first question comes from a friend of geek Park, Mr. keso. He wanted me to ask why wiki is a non-profit organization, and it has the potential to become a more valuable company.
Jim Wales: in fact, many of my friends ask me the same question. Personally, I think so. We emerged after the IT bubble. We didn’t have much business idea at that time. We just wanted to make this happen. We hope to make a product that we all need. Later we met with a bubble and there was no money.
Of course, we have some volunteers who think we should continue our work in a non-profit mode. We are really a non-profit organization, and we really want to have some high-quality products for everyone. In consideration of business, we have not done much. Some of our readers will have some donations, which is the source of our business continuity. I think this model can really run.
Zhang Peng: personally, you are very opposed to advertising, aren’t you?
Jim Wales: Yes, during the speech, I will talk about the business model of advertising. I will say that this is the current wiki, and this is the wiki with advertising. We can see that there are many irrelevant advertisements on the website. This is a phenomenon we hope to avoid. From the point of our attention, what we are interested in depends on our content, which is very critical.
Zhang Peng: Wikipedia has been born for 17 years. What do you think is the most important impact of the Internet information revolution on our society?
Jimmy Wales: 40 years ago, if you turned on the radio, it might be saying that there was an earthquake in Azerbaijan. You said where Azerbaijan is and you wanted to check it. In the past, you had to go to the library to check it, but many people didn’t because of the consideration of time and distance.
Now it’s very convenient for you to check this information on the Internet. You can find out where it is, how life and economy are there. I think this is a very important change brought about by technology. You can also understand this problem from a pragmatic point of view. For example, you are a person engaged in science and technology. As a result, some people talk about new technology, which is a new technology If I want to know more about it, I can find a lot of relevant information on Wiki.
Zhang Peng: Wikipedia enables everyone to obtain knowledge and information through fair channels. This is a knowledge revolution. 17 years have passed. I believe this revolution is still in progress, and knowledge has become very fragmented. Is it time to redefine knowledge itself?
Jim Wales: I think some of my views on knowledge are very old-fashioned to some extent. Knowledge, to some extent, is always the same definition. Of course, there are different ways to get and understand information. I often use quora. I think it’s a very good tool, but it’s different from wiki. Wiki means that if you want to have a relatively unified view on a certain topic and a certain historical event, when there are three or four different views, Wikipedia will integrate all the things in it for you. For example, for a certain war, say that this is one view, this is another view, and provide it to you in one place; use quora The time to do this is to find some experience and information about ideas. This information is very important, but the types of information are different.
For example, Twitter is also a source of information. Of course, Twitter is only a very fast source of information, and its noise may be relatively high. So it’s important to have different sources of information.
At the same time, we must also know the quality problem. I think you should get quality information. This is actually an important aspect of fake news. Many fake news comes from social sharing. Sometimes you will share it. For example, in the case of haze in China just now, who has shared the photos thousands of times? I think some people who share like this are not very responsible. After they share with their friends, other friends share with them. As a result, fake news keeps spreading and is not found in time. We will find that some surveys have pointed out that in the past two years, many people no longer trust the sharing on social media as before. People used to say that people are trustworthy because this is the information shared by friends. Now they say that my friends don’t have such good judgment and sometimes the information may not be true.
Zhang Peng: should we say that? In fact, knowledge is also a form of information, but knowledge is more accurate and will not produce any ambiguity. People are now connected to each other through the Internet, so all of us want to be experts in a certain point of view or a certain kind of experience, which will make people happy. They can bring added value to everyone, so it’s still good, right?
Jim Wales: of course, I think the advantage of the Internet is that it can have an open dialogue on the Internet, which is very powerful. Even if there are some false news, it is still a small problem, and we will eventually overcome these problems. We have seen a lot of orderly changes. For example, Facebook is changing its strategy. Google also attaches great importance to the quality of information, so they are rethinking the noise on the Internet and what people really need.
For a long time, for example, companies like Facebook, the problem of information quality is the problem of Facebook quality. We don’t want to see fake news as soon as we log on to Facebook, so people won’t be interested and the whole company will collapse in the long run.
Zhang Peng: at the time of the birth of Wikipedia, the whole society was in the stage of extreme shortage of information. But now we are a bit overloaded with information. Do you think this is a problem? Is information overload beyond the limit we can tolerate?

Jim Wales: for me, the more interesting thing is that we need to think about what role Wikipedia plays, especially in poor and rich countries? For example, the Chinese, Americans, Europeans, we have a lot of excessive information, which has burst. Wikipedia is very accurate. I can tell you what the facts look like. For example, if you Google Hitler’s name, you can get millions of results. When you find a link to Wikipedia, you can open Hitler’s entry. It’s just like this. It’s very intuitive.
For another example, in a small language region in Africa, if you only speak Zulu, but your English is not very good, the information you can get is very limited. Not many languages can be translated into Zulu, and there are not many Zulu news or newspapers, and a lot of knowledge has not been translated into Zulu.
So in Wikipedia, our importance is not to reduce our information overload, but to translate our other languages into Zulu, which is very important for some poor societies.
Zhang Peng: but for most people, information overload is still a serious problem. People want to avoid it. Do you think it’s the right time for those platforms that cause information overload to come forward and solve this problem?
Jim Wales: I really think so, but I think it’s very difficult for some platforms, because the business model of many of our platforms is to ensure the number of hits.
But for consumers, it is a matter of quality. If consumers think that every time I tweet, I always see people quarreling with each other, it’s meaningless; but if every time I tweet, I can see a lot of interesting ideas, I will feel very happy, and not superficially happy. You don’t think you’re wasting your time just clicking on the connection and seeing people saying something useless.
Of course, it’s very difficult to change this situation, and I still sympathize with Facebook. We can imagine this history. At that time, we didn’t have a lot of false information, media problems, and the scandal behind Trump’s election. People will worry about whether Facebook will control our world outlook, but Facebook doesn’t want to control our world. We want to solve this problem with Facebook, but it’s very difficult.
Zhang Peng: another friend of geek Park, Feng Dahui, wants to ask how to crack down on false news and misleading information?
Jimmy Wales: real false news can’t make an impact on Wikipedia. We have a lot of people who write a lot of Wikipedia content every day. They are generally knowledgeable. They know whether the quality of information is true or false, good or bad.
There’s a fake news website called Denver guardian. When we see this name, we may think of Denver, a big city in the United States. When we look at the “Guardian”, it is very similar to the name of news. People will enter this website and receive a lot of false news. However, many people in Wiki will think that I have never heard of the name “Denver Guardian”, and they will go to Google Search, you will know that this is a false news website, it will not be used as our source of information.
So I think humans are better than algorithms because we need to do a lot of comparative information research. For example, there is news that “the Pope supports trump.”. We’ll think about it. We’ll go online and find out how the Pope supports trump. It’s very strange.
So, this decision is not made by algorithms, but by human experience, the experience we get from sharing information on Twitter or Facebook.
Most of the misleading information and false reports are released by the big platform.
Zhang Peng: what should these big platforms do?
Jim Wales: Yes, we should be more careful, more cautious, especially when we ask them to make any changes or fix problems. For example, Google has invested a lot of money in news innovation to deal with different problems. I think this is not only a social responsibility, but also a commercial responsibility, and more importantly, a problem of being responsible for the quality of consumer service.
But now our information spreads too fast. Sometimes we will get some truth from it. Sometimes we also need to adapt to the influence of false news and misleading information. Maybe for these platforms, they need to break the past system and system, but they have not found a new system and platform, and have not found a new balance.
Zhang Peng: but sometimes some things are not black and white. Most of the time, some misleading information is based on facts, which is difficult to distinguish. Every time you intervene, there may be other mistakes. How do you deal with these problems?
Jim Wales: I think we still need some people who are more experienced, have good ideas, and are willing to listen to others’ opinions openly to make some synthesis and compromise.
In our society, there should be such a mechanism, so it is important for us to make a discussion. Some big platforms have not been built in this area, such as twitter. We put what we want to say on it, but there is no balanced mechanism. We should be cautious about these things.
From another point of view, it should not be twitter that decides what is right and what is wrong, so I don’t know what you should do. There is no solution for the moment, but in Wiki, we hope to achieve at least a balance.
Zhang Peng: are you optimistic or pessimistic about such an information revolution?

Jim Wales: I’m optimistic, but sometimes I’m sad and optimistic. There are many things I’m worried about. I think there is no problem with some things. I am optimistic about the quality of news and information, because I do see that more and more people are willing to pay for news. The real problems of fake news and spam are basically being solved through our algorithms or some more effective security mechanisms.
There are new attempts to solve the problems of some business models in the past, such as the generation of payment mechanism – paying more to get very high-quality information immediately; or paying less to get information by constantly clicking. I think we have realized that it is very meaningful to pay for high-quality information, which is a very good trend.
Zhang Peng: let’s talk about wikitribune. We know that you have spent a lot of time in this area. What is the purpose of this project?
Jim Wales: for wikitribune, I started thinking about domain names five years ago. We know that in fact, some professional journalists are very important. The cost structure of news is really expensive, so we must have some innovation. In terms of cost, high-quality communities should be involved to help complete some of the work. There are some things that we don’t need to pay experts to do, but the community itself is willing to do.
In addition, our readers can raise money by means of crowdfunding and invite news professionals to do something that must be done by experts. Such a platform, on the whole, still hope that there is no advertising, hope that readers pay. If you pay us, we have to provide information that interests you. We are also learning and getting to know our readers. This project is very interesting.