How I Built This: Wikipedia: Jimmy Wales

Full podcast here.

  • Gutenberg’s press made it possible to spread knowledge beyond a village or a town. Wikipedia made it possible for every single person with an internet connection to gain access to the largest collection of knowledge ever assembled

  • When I was a kid I had two hobbies. Tinkering with computers and reading. I read everything he could get my hands on. Including the encyclopedia. 

  • I had no life. I was trading options during the day. At night I was making my own web browser. I had been convinced that the internet was going to fundamentally change the world. The IPO of Netscape showed me the market validated that idea. 

  • In 1996 he founded an internet search company called Bomis. It was focused on adult entertainment and content.

  • Web right was the precursor to Wikipedia. Web ring allowed people to come in and build an index to any topic that they were interested in.

  • We had the idea to build an encyclopedia and have volunteers contribute to it. I thought this was low hanging fruit. I was in a panic to start because I thought it was so obvious. But after two years no one was competing with us

  • Linus’s Law says given enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow. This applies to lots of areas of life. If you get a lot of people looking at something you find the problem and the solution.

  • A wiki is a website anyone can edit. The ideas were used for quick collaboration. We were just the first ones to say let’s use that tool to build an encyclopedia. 

  • Why did you decide to make Wikipedia a non-profit? We made this decision in the depth of the dotcom crash. There was no obvious business model. Ad revenue dried up. The volunteer community wanted it to be nonprofit. It seemed like the right thing for Wikipedia. Imagine a world where every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we are doing.

  • Wikipedia received $85 million in donations last year. Primarily from small donors.