Launched on January 15, 2001, Wikipedia was the brainchild of Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger who wanted a free online encyclopaedia that could be populated with content by volunteers.
Ten years later and it’s the world’s fifth most popular website with more than 410 million monthly users viewing 17 million articles and 7.3 million images.
The homepage went live on January 15 and within two years it had 100,000 articles following the submission on a piece about the town of Hastings in New Zealand.
One year later and the total number of articles had doubled with an entry on the colourful English football manager Neil Warnock the 200,000th item.
Jordanhill railway station in Glasgow became the one millionth article when it went live on March 1, 2006 with Norwegian actress Beate Marie Eriksen the three millionth English language article to appear on Wikipedia in August 2009.
After ten years there are now more than 3.5 million articles in English making up more than ONE BILLION words – 25 times as many as the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
English language articles only make up 20 per cent of Wikipedia which has 17 million articles – with French and German language editions each having more than one million each.
Twenty-four other language editions have over 100,000 articles each while even little spoken regional languages having designated sites. The Cornish language has 1,853 articles while Scottish Gaelic boasts 7,867 entries.
In total there are 270 different language editions.
According to Wikipedia, there are no details on the most viewed article due to the site’s sheer enormity.
However, the most popular article on one single day was the Michael Jackson page, which was accessed 5.9 million times the day after the singer’s death.
In December 2010, the homepage was viewed 155 million times while more than 2.5 million accessed the Julian Assange page. WikiLeaks, which has no affiliation to Wikipedia, had over 5 million views.
But despite Wikipedia’s best intentions, the website does continue to be a hub of inaccurate information with users freely editing articles for their own amusement.
“Vandals” as they are known, are responsible for thousands mistakes on the site with the most vandalised entry being former US President George W. Bush.
The Bush article is now locked so only privileged users can edit it. According to Wales, if the page was ‘unlocked’, “it would take 37 seconds before being filled with curse words”.
In the past, vandals have taken it upon themselves to make up the deaths of many famous faces.
Former Children’s BBC presenter Andi Peters was once “killed in a freak paintballing accident” while Vernon Kay “drowned in a tragic yachting
accident in Greece”.
David Beckham has also been the butt of prankster’s amusement with his article once insisting he was “a Chinese goalkeeper in the 18th century”.
Even founder Jimmy Wales’ entry has had inaccuracies in the past, claiming the 44-year-old is a keen chess player.
Wikipedia has 100,000 online volunteers who write and moderate these articles – and relies on donations from organisations and members of the public with the site void of adverts and completely free.
It’s part of Wikimedia, a non-profit foundation dedicated to bringing free content to the world, that consists of 12 different projects.
Following a drive in November, the organisation raised £12.1 million in less than seven weeks – to fund its operations for 2011.