Moulin Wiki is a website dedicated to the concept of free encyclopedias and the dissemination of knowledge. We are interested in the history of encyclopedias, including, and perhaps especially, Wikipedia, and its extraordinary ability to make enormous amounts of information free to anyone with an internet connection.
The oldest encyclopedia in recorded history is the Naturalis Historia (Natural History), which was written by Pliny the Elder and published around the year 77 C.E. (Common Era). This massive document was the model for encyclopedias that came after.
Modern encyclopedias first appeared in the 17th century. They were structured after the fashion of dictionaries, but focused on factual and historical data rather than word meaning and etymology.
Free, online encyclopedias have been around almost since the internet began, dating back to Usenet in 1993, where the concept of Interpedia was first proposed. However, a functional and stable online encyclopedia did not exist until Nupedia, which lasted from 2000 to 2003. Nupedia was founded by Jimmy Wales and edited by Larry Sanger. It was extensively peer-reviewed.
Enter the Wiki
The “wiki” was invented in 1994 by Ward Cunningham for the purpose of software development. He ran the first wiki on c2.com and named it “WikiWikiWeb.” As most people probably know by now, the word “wiki” is the Hawaiian word for “quick,” and expresses the rapidity with which a wiki can be updated. Unlike with the peer review process of Nupedia, wikis can be edited by anyone with a web browser.
The basic features of a wiki are that it is web-based, it can be edited by anyone, and a page history is maintained. The concept is that, although errors can appear, they are rapidly corrected, and the speed and openness of the platform outweighs the downside of occasional inaccuracies (which, again, can be quickly fixed).
Wikipedia: Wiki Meets Encyclopedia
The original “wiki” was created for the purpose of computer programming, and subsequent wikis were aligned with that intention. However, with the introduction of Wikipedia on January 15, 2001, the marriage of the wiki format to the purpose of knowledge-based articles was achieved. Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger of Nupedia launched the project, hoping that the open-source wiki model would make for a more rapid introduction of articles. Bomis, which underwrote Nupedia, donated the bandwidth and San Diego-based server to Wikipedia. Bomis employees and staff contributed greatly to the new project.
The English-language Wikipedia passed 100,000 articles in 2003, and by the end of 2004, there were over one million articles. By the end of 2011, there were over 3.8 million articles on the English Wikipedia.
Among the many foreign language versions of Wikipedia (known as “forks”), the largest are the Spanish language (Enciclopedia Libre), German ( Wikiweise), and Russian ( WikiZnanie).