Every year on the 15th of January, Wikipedians of all stripes stop for a moment to celebrate Wikipedia Day, the anniversary of the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit going public. This time around, the eighth most popular website in the world turns eight, and somehow it just feels extra special.
We’ve had our fair share of scandals and trolls still haunting the environs, but in retrospect, it’s been an unthinkably brilliant year for the free encyclopedia. Why am I so excited? Let me count the ways. Eight in fact…
- We didn’t reach another full million like in 2007, but we have nearly 2.7 million articles. At the current rate of increase, we should have our three millionth article well before the end of ’09.
- You can now be knighted for editing Wikipedia. Seriously. Florence Devouard, who rose from within the ranks of everyday contributors to become the Chair of our Board of Trustees, was awarded the French National Order of Merit by President Sarkozy in May.
- In middle of a total economic meltdown, 125,000 people still found Wikipedia valuable enough to donate more than six million dollars.
- In addition to the six million dollars Wikipedia raised to cover operating costs, we received a special grant from the Stanton Foundation of $890,000 to make it easier for anyone to edit.
- Academics, who have either banned Wikipedia outright or simply ignored it in the past, are now engaging with us in new and interesting ways. A prime example are any scientists submitting work to RNA Biology, who must now simultaneously publish in Wikipedia.
- Educators aren’t just softening to Wikipedia, they’re actually having their students help write it in droves. Both higher and lower education has been working in Wikipedia for a while, but 2008 was a landmark year. Case in point: a University of British Columbia project contributed the 2,000th Featured Article (our best peer-reviewed work), in addition to hundreds of other great articles written by students at the request of profs.
- The worst scandal about founder Jimmy Wales was some boring garbage about his ex-girlfriend. It would seem people still respect the man enough for his personal appeal to mean something come fundraising time, and to read his CNN editorial with Andrea Weckerle about Obama’s CTO. Either way, if your founder isn’t killing everyone’s confidence by stepping down due to failing health, you’re in good shape (no pun intended).
- We’re not even close to being done. Normally, volunteers might be reluctant to admit that their mission is perpetually incomplete, but (in case you hadn’t noticed) Wikipedia is different. Not only are 10 million pages in 260 languages not enough to satiate our geeky lust for information, but we admit from the start that Wikipedia will never be finished. An encyclopedia already so big that you could never finish it, but still not complete? Now that’s exciting. Happy birthday Wikipedia, and here’s to another productive year ahead.