The Internet’s non-billionaire

Wikipedia is now the world’s most linked-to website, but its founder has never sought to monetize it.

At Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales’ third wedding, his wife’s maid of honour made a toast to “the one world-famous Internet entrepreneur who didn’t become a billionaire.” And Wales has no regrets about not monetizing his world-famous website, according to London’s Telegraph.

Wikipedia has just celebrated its 15th anniversary. In that short span of time, the online encyclopedia has managed to become the world’s most linked-to website. A Google search on any term is likely to feature Wikipedia among the first three results.

Each month, the site gets 15 billion page views and its 80,000 volunteers manage to create 7,000 new articles every day. A normal reader would require 21 years to go through the English-language pages alone.

For Wales, it’s a humanitarian vision that has always served as the driving force behind Wikipedia. He aims to create a world in which “every single person … is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.”

The Wikipedia model has endured, even though it has been frequently challenged. For example, the anonymity of its contributors has been thoroughly decried. The ability to self-edit has also been criticized; for example, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found in 2012 that one in six British MPs or their staff had been editing their own entries. Wales himself has been blamed for polishing up his own entry.  

Luckily, as Wales points out, Wikipedia includes a self-correcting process. “If you try to write a completely favourable article about Donald Trump or Barack Obama, someone will always call you up on it.”