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Celebrating 20 years of Wikipedia

Web Foundation · January 18, 2021

Happy birthday, Wikipedia! On January 15, 2021, we marked 20 years of the online encyclopedia with a special edition of The Web Untangledour monthly newsletter series exploring topics critical to the web we want. Subscribe now to receive the next edition in your inbox.


We’re celebrating 20 years of Wikipedia, one of the web’s greatest achievements and a shining example of the open, collaborative space Tim Berners-Lee imagined when he invented the web.

When you want to find something out, you go to Wikipedia. It’s difficult to overstate—and impossible to fully measure—the impact that this engine of information has had on our world. Beyond that, the site is also a truly global community, one of the most collaborative projects in the history of earth,and perhaps the closest thing we have to an online public square.  

Since it launched in 2001, Wikipedia has become one of the most beloved and trusted sites on the web, notching up more than 15 billion visits each month across 1.5 billion devices, making it the eighth-most-visited site in the world.

As part of an internet riddled with problems and dysfunction, Wikipedia stands tall as an example of the web at its best, serving humanity. Though of course, our favourite online encyclopedia is not perfect. If it is truly to be for everyone, it must address a number of challenges—a lack of diversity in its editing ranks and patterns of harassment and toxic behaviour chief among them.

Here we celebrate all things Wikipedia as “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” turns 20 and untangle questions it must answer as it heads into a new decade.


Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.

— Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia

20 years of Wikipedia, in numbers

53 million+ — Wikipedia has more than 53 million articles (Wikipedia 20).

317 — Wikipedia articles have been created in 317 languages, with 307 languages currently active. As of January 12, English language articles accounted for 11.2% of all articles, followed by Cebuano language articles at 9.8% (Wikipedia).

250,000+ — Wikipedia is written by a community of more than 250,000 volunteer editors from across the globe (Down the Rabbit Hole).

6,000 — Wikipedia is viewed 6,000 times every second (Wikipedia 20).

83,764,908 — The COVID-19 page, the most viewed English Wikipedia article of 2020, was viewed 83,764,908 times, almost double the views of Avengers: Endgame, 2019’s most popular page (Down the Rabbit Hole).

20 percent — Fewer than 20 percent of Wikipedia editors identify as women (Wikipedia 20).

97 percent — Clicking the the first link in the main text of a Wikipedia article, and then repeating the process for subsequent articles, usually leads to the Philosophy article. As of February 2016, this was true for 97 percent of articles on Wikipedia (Wikipedia: Getting to Philosophy).


So [there is] this huge systematic bias against women, against people of color, against people from the global south, against people who are from any kind of particular marginalized group. So it’s kind of two things—one, we have not a very diverse editorship, and two, the things they write about are not very diverse.

Jess Wade
One Page at a Time, Jess Wade is Changing Wikipedia | via NPR

Recommended reading

Learn to edit: Jump into editing with Art+Feminism—a global initiative addressing the gender gap on Wikipedia—as your guide. ▸ Art + Feminism Resources

Chronicling Covid: The Covid-19 pandemic and accompanying infodemic put Wikipedia to the test, but its editors rose to the challenge. Here’s how. The Washington Post

Wikipedia’s superheroes: Each year, Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales celebrates the people going above and beyond to make sure everyone has access to trusted information. Meet Sandister Tei, the 2020 Wikimedian of the Year. Down the Rabbit Hole

2020’s time capsule: From Post Malone to MF Doom, here are the most read English language Wikipedia pages for each day of last year. Quartz

History as it unfolds: What’s it like to document a breaking news event in realtime? Software engineer and Wikipedian Molly White shares her experience during this month’s rioting at the US Capitol. Molly White via Twitter

Mind the gender gap: On English Wikipedia, slightly more than 18 percent of biographies are about women. Women in Red wants you to help change that. ▸ WikiProject Women in Red


This is the gnawing challenge for Wikipedia. After a period of wild, unrestrained growth, it needs some civilizing laws. The equivalent of a fair housing act and safety inspections to ensure it won’t exclude certain groups from its pages and allow harmful material to grow and fester.

Just as it takes more than bricks to build a city, it takes more than facts to build a thriving encyclopedia.

Noam Cohen
Wikipedia’s Biggest Challenge Awaits in 2021 | via WIRED

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  1. rohan sharma

    February 2, 2021

    nice article. thanks for sahring this keep writing like this

    Reply

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