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You are here: Technology Web & Internet Jimmy Wales
Jimmy Wales had one dream—to give the people of the world free information. Widespread knowledge brings widespread empowerment, and Wales has made it his life’s mission. Statistics, biographies, trivia and millions of facts can all be found on the site he envisioned and created: Wikipedia. Entries can be authored or edited by anyone, and the project has become a model for free access and collective self-regulation unlike anything the world has ever seen.

Wales, an entrepreneur from Alabama, started investigating internet opportunities after generating some capital by working in the field of finance. He started two other online communities—called Bomis and Nupedia—that failed to achieve lasting power. But all was not lost; those ventures generated capital and gave him the experience he needed to put together Wikipedia. Today, Wales and his partners fund the site though support from those who read and write on Wikipedia. Wales said in a 2009 speech at Yale University that he and his partners plan to avoid using advertising to bolster cash flow, but would consider it if funding became scarce.

For now, visitors to the site will see personal appeals from various writers, editors and staffers asking for reader donations. Wikipedia may have grown to be the fifth-largest site on the internet, but it operates according to the same values that inspired its foundation—free knowledge for all, not beholden to the demands and censorship often imposed by corporate sponsors.

The site is written and updated by volunteers in thousands of different languages across the world. Because anyone around the world can contribute, there are plenty of writers to keep up with constant changes in politics, science, art, pop culture and more. This is a feat no professionally-written, peer-reviewed encyclopedia could hope to achieve.

Wales told the BBC that the language growth of Wikipedia is rapidly expanding. In 2011, the company opened an office in India, a country that now represents one of the organization’s fastest-growing new segments. And they’re not finished. “The biggest thing you can expect to see in the next 10 years is the growth of Wikipedia in languages of the developing world,” Wales said. As Wikipedia moves into its eleventh year, new sites and developments continue to keep people engaged in the community.

“Wikipedia began with a very radical idea,” Wales said. “That's for all of us to imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. So that's what we're doing.”

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