Wikipedia is today the reference source for millions of people around the world. Its Spanish edition alone is visited by nearly 36 million people a day. But there was a day that could have been very different.

Even though he is the founder, Jimmy Wales has long since moved away from direct everyday life on Wikipedia. and Wikimedia, the foundation that runs it. Partly because he spent some time creating an analogue of Wikipedia, but with ads.

Surely, when searching for information about many series, comics or sagas, you have come across portals such as Fandom (formerly known as Wikia), community wiki founded by a company owned by Wales.

Fandom is a community of wikis – encyclopedias with user-generated content – like Wikipedia, but which, unlike Free Encyclopediamonetized through ads. In total, he has over 385,000 communities on topics from manga to video games and 50 million pages.

Its existence is in some way an offshoot of Wikipedia Wales at one point advocated the coexistence of an anonymous-user-edited encyclopedia with ads, which the community rejected.

Jimmy Wales, between free content and ads, almost always

Fandom currently has nearly 850 million visits per month. Similar websiteswhich puts it on par with search engines like Duck Duck Go or Google in Brazil.

But, what was its origin? In 2004, Wales and then-Wikimedia board member Angela Beasley founded the commercial company Wikia.

The model was simple but not easy: replicate the success of Wikipedia, but with Star Wars or Star Trek communities. Another service offered by Wikia was Wikia Search, an open source search engine designed to challenge Google by providing transparency and public dialogue on how search engine results are generated, but this project was abandoned in March 2009.

Fandom portal dedicated to “Game of Thrones” and “A Song of Ice and Fire”

Despite its success in traffic, Wikia/Fandom is not a very profitable business, but it is profitable. After going through several rounds of investments, his property has now been in the hands of Texas fund TPG Capital since 2018.

The basis of this portal is a mirror of the very figure of Wales.. A person convinced and almost utopian of the need to promote free and open knowledge without waiting for commercial interests. He had subsequent attempts, not very successful, to replicate the new Wikipedia. With WikiTribune, a portal launched in 2017 to combat fake news by bringing together professional journalists and citizens; and WT Social, an ad-free social network, has become another wasteland.

Yet the birth of Wikia was the result of the community not allowing it to seek funding through Wikipedia ads at the time that Wales was pushing hard at the turn of the millennium.

An initial attempt to insert ads on Wikipedia was thwarted by a Spanish counter-current.

This attempt was stopped by a group of Spanish Wikipedians who created a “fork” or fork of the project, redirecting the idea to what we know today.

To understand the history, it is necessary to go back to the very origin of the project. As you know, Wikipedia was a project founded by Jimmy-Jimbo-Wales and Larry Sanger.after the first attempt to create free information, which failed.

This failed attempt was Nupedia, an encyclopedia which, while offering its articles openly, was prepared by experts and scholars in the field, who in addition required peer review before publication.

This process has resulted in new content in Nupedia., and Wikipedia, with a much more open approach to those who want to collaborate, began publishing dozens of articles in January 2001. Editions in other languages ​​were added to this altruistic crusade by one of the first and most active Spanish Wikipedias just a few months later.

Bomis, the ancestor of Wikipedia and Wikia, who taught Wales the commercial potential of the Internet.

Founders of Bomis, with Wales at the centre.

But in this Internet that was starting to become mainstream but in many cases prehistoric, mounting and storing a similar project on web servers was no easy task.

Wikipedia has been associated with Bomis, a company founded by Jimmy Wales himself, from its early days. and that he experimented with content websites such as the directory about the city of Chicago, as well as many other portals, some with erotic content.

Bomis, under the auspices of Wales, provided its servers to host the Wikipedia project in its early years, and also owned the domain. Because yes, Wikipedia didn’t start with a .org domain from the very beginning (something much less important now, but vital in the canons of the Internet two decades ago when it comes to non-commercial projects).

And in that merger, where Wikipedia was hosted by a private company but with openly licensed content provided by altruistic contributors, a split emerged.

Santiago Navarro, Director of Wikimedia Spain, estimates that in 2021 hypertext this particular event when we interviewed him about the anniversary of the encyclopedia. “Essentially, the founders of Wikipedia somehow increased the ability to show ads, which the community didn’t like, especially in Spanish,” he recalls.

Wales is still halfway between both worlds

Wales, in any case, did not make a huge fortune from their attempts, if that matters. Article from Quartz in 2013, his net worth was estimated at $1 million, although the sale price of Fandom, made later, is unknown..

Be that as it may, since then Wales has established himself as an important lecturer and sailed with the two failed attempts we mentioned earlier to new ports, both of which are more like the origins of Wikipedia than Wikia.

Source: Hiper Textual

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