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Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, written entirely by volunteers. With more than 7 million articles in over 200 language editions and 6.8 million subscribed users, it forms the largest publicly available and editable knowledge base.

The idea behind Wikipedia—creating a free online encyclopedia—was not new on 15 January 2001, when Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales added the first English-language site to the Nupedia project. The project was immediately popular, and by the end of the first year was already growing in 18 languages, 26 by the end of the second, 46 the next, 161 the year after that.

The project developed many of its core content principles in those first months and years, core ideas which remain guiding forces as it continues to grow and develop. These principles are that articles should conform to a neutral point of view—not any one point of view—that article content should be verifiable, and that Wikipedia should not be a place to publish original research.

Working within these guidelines, the contributors to Wikipedia have surpassed some amazing milestones. On 1 January 2002 there were 18,000 articles across the 18 languages, 2003 there were 138,000, 403,000 in 2004, in 2005 1,300,000 articles, and on 1 January 2006 there were 3,100,000 articles.

On 1 July 2006 there were 4.6 million articles in the project, the most recent complete statistics available. The number of editors who were active in any given month has likewise shown a steady growth. In the first month of Wikipedia’s existence there were 9 active editors. One year later the number was 205, 834 in 2003, 3202 in 2004, 13,296 in 2005, and 47,608 in January of 2006.

Numbers like these suggest why Wikipedia has become such a popular site according to internet traffic analyzers. Alexa reports that Wikipedia entered the top 20 websites by traffic in January 2006, plateauing a fairly steady rise. Wikipedia debuted on ComScore’s 50 hottest internet properties at 44 in September 2005, and rose to position 15 by the September 2006 report.