Jimmy Wales

Ashoka Fellow
San Francisco, United States
Fellow Since 2008
My Work: Revolutionizing the field of information sharing through Wikipedia- a fee, publicly-created encyclopedia.


This profile was prepared when Jimmy Wales was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Wikipedia is the modern successor to a 30-volume Encyclopedia Britannica. It relies on expert contributors and editors, drawn from the public—the millions that log onto Wikipedia daily to get their questions answered. Each “user”—the term for an online reader and contributor—has access to edit or comment on the content of any webpage, and their edits are overseen by experienced administrators elected from the community. Many Wikipedia entries, therefore, have multiple authors and have gone through anywhere from dozens to thousands of edits over time as users constantly refine the information or correct misinformation.

Wikipedia is accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world with an Internet connection, free of cost. The vision, according to Wales, has always been a free, high-quality encyclopedia for every person on the planet in their own language. At its foundation is also the belief that individual knowledge of the world, carefully and thoughtfully cultivated in open dialogue with knowledgeable and sincere peers is both more accurate and richer than that of unaccountable and often poorly qualified editorial boards.

According to its own Wikipedia entry: “Wikipedia is a multilingual, Web-based, free content encyclopedia project. The name Wikipedia is a portmanteau (combination of words and their meanings) of the words wiki (a type of collaborative Web site) and encyclopedia…Wikipedia is written collaboratively by volunteers from all around the world. Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown rapidly into one of the largest reference Web sites, attracting at least 684 million visitors yearly by 2008. There are more than 75,000 active contributors working on more than 10,000,000 articles in more than 250 languages. As of today, there are 2,500,828 articles in English; every day hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world make tens of thousands of edits and create thousands of new articles to enhance the knowledge held by the Wikipedia encyclopedia.”
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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