Almost a year after the creation of the Spanish Wikipedia, most of its users decided to start a new project with similar goals on a different server called Enciclopedia Libre Universal. The initial reasons for the fork are not valid any more. However, there are no current plans to unify the projects. Both communities of users have members and sysops in common and the exchange of articles is frequent.
Creation of the Spanish Wikipedia
The Spanish Wikipedia was created on May 20, 2001 as one of the first Wikipedias in other languages, our first user was AstroNomo, who now uses “Renacimiento” as his user name. During the first months of the project, there were lots of issues that leads to the definition of what would be a Wikipedia in a different language:
- Should it be the translation of Wikipedia in another language
- Should it have its own sysops
- Should there be an appointed editor (as in the English version at that time), an editor that would define some kind of style or editorial policy
These issues and the fact that at that time there was a discussion about sources for founding the project lead a group of users to perceive that their work would be better invested in an independent project, with a server based on different facilities. Hosted by Universidad de Sevilla in Spain, the new project called Enciclopedia Libre Universal was born. Initially they started with the articles of the Spanish Wikipedia plus articles that were erased because they didn’t follow the editorial policy of Wikipedia.
In a last effort to avoid the fork, Larry Sanger wrote a message giving his opinion about this issue and inviting the users to stay. This message was considered as a provocation by some of the users and sealed the commitment to create the new project.
Creation of the Enciclopedia Libre Universal
The Enciclopedia Libre Universal (abbreviated EL) was born on February 26, 2002 and very soon achieves its goal to concentrate most of the users that were initially at the Spanish Wikipedia.
Despite conciliating messages from Maveric and Jimbo, the fact that the new project was working and growing make the users become confident of the benefits of having a separate project, which were to avoid the supervision of the English Wikipedia in the evolution of EL.
Reunification of the projects
Since the creation of the EL, there has been an almost continuous discussion at EL about the possibilities of reunification. As almost no users continued contributing at the Spanish Wikipedia at he end of 2002, the issue was whether to return the Wikipedia or not. An early poll showed that users preferred to continue in a different project, even when the conditions at the Spanish Wikipedia improved in the number of users, of articles and in the clarification of rules and independence of the project with respect to the other Wikipedias.
In fact, at the Spanish Wikipedia, there are very few discussions about reunification. There is a reference to the EL in the main page of the project, and very often, new users of both projects are not aware of the existence of the other. There are very few documents about the fork at the Spanish Wikipedia and only a statement about the existence of the two projects and a record of the discussions at EL.
Since the fork, Wikipedia has become a dot-org site, the Wikimedia Foundation was created, an international portal is available at the wikimedia.org address, each Wikipedia names its own administrators and decides the details of the policies. There is a feeling at EL that forking the project pushed most of these goals.
There have been concrete proposals coming from people from Wikipedia to reunify the projects. However the users at EL do not perceive advantages to return and prefer to stay in a different project. Their only regret is not to have the interwiki links.
Since 2003, there is a cross collaboration between the two projects. Mostly promoted by the users. Initially EL had more articles than Wikipedia, so articles flowed from EL to Wikipedia. Actually, the exchange is in both directions and there are more articles created each day at the Spanish Wikipedia.
Among the differences between The Spanish Wikipedia and EL are the creation at EL of a name space for long, non-NPOV articles that they call essays. Other differences relate to voted policies that may differ at each project. These different policies are reflected in the choice of articles that are most frequently created at both sites. There are several users who actively contribute to both projects.
Chronology of the fork between the Spanish Wikipedia and EL
- May 20, 2001 – The Spanish Wikipedia was born
- February 26, 2002 – The “Enciclopedia Libre Universal” was born
- December, 2003 – As a result of a debate at the EL they decide to continue as a different project (EL had 16,000 articles vs 12,000 in the Sp. Wikipedia).
- March 2004 – Sp. Wikipedia and EL had the same number of articles (19,000). Most of them as copies of articles from EL.
- 2004 – The server of EL had access problems.
- June 2005 – The Spanish Wikipedia doubled the number of articles of EL (EL: 28,500 – Sp. Wikipedia: 57,300)
- August 2006 - The Spanish Wikipedia is 450% more articles than EL (EL: 32,489 -Sp. Wikipedia: 146,785)