Wikipedia is a multilingual, free online encyclopedia. The information is crowd-sourced and can be openly edited by people all around the world. Any user, regardless of profession, expertise, or education, can sign up for an account on Wikipedia and create pages about any subject they like.
There are also tens of thousands of volunteer editors who have the ability to edit pages for quality and accuracy, using a wiki-based editing system. These editors span from subject matter experts to casual users.
Wikipedia’s funding is entirely user-generated, just like its content. It’s hosted by the American non-profit organization, the Wikimedia Foundation. Relying on donations allows Wikipedia to operate without ads or corporate influence.
Alexa Internet, Inc., an American web traffic analysis company, ranked Wikipedia as one of the 15 most popular websites on the internet in January 2021. The Economist magazine also ranked it as the 13th-most-visited website.
Wikipedia is primarily not considered to be a reliable source for academic research. However, many facts in its posts are supported and cited by sources that can be found at the bottom of each article under the References section.
Many online publications run the risk of framing their information to align with the corporate interests of those who fund them. Wikipedia offers some reassurance that no corporate investors are swaying information since all of their funding comes from donations. But there’s no guarantee that all information is free of bias or is completely accurate since anyone can contribute or edit articles.
The Wikipedia website and domain were officially launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Singer. The property started as another online source of information, called Nupedia, which was also founded and operated by Wales and Singer. It was strictly an English language encyclopedia that only allowed expert contributors and involved a formal reviewing process of information before anything was published. Nupedia and its articles were absorbed by Wikipedia in 2003 due to its rapid popularity.
Wikipedia started as an English-only encyclopedia but expanded to 161 different languages by the end of 2004. The current edition supports over 300 languages.
In an effort to reduce misinformation fed to users, Facebook and YouTube announced in 2018 that they would provide suggested links to related Wikipedia articles when content was flagged as misleading.
Wikipedia is now comprised of more than 55 million articles in a vast array of subjects. In 2020, the site was visited by more than 1.5 billion devices and overall receives 1.7 billion unique visitors every month.