GNE (previously known as GNUPedia) was a project to create a free content encyclopedia (licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License) under the auspices of the Free Software Foundation. The idea for the project was initially proposed by Richard Stallman in December 2000 and officially started in January 2001, moderated by Héctor Facundo Arena, an Argentinian programmer and GNU activist.
Immediately upon its creation, GNUPedia was confronted by confusion with the similar-sounding Nupedia project led by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, and controversy over whether this constituted a fork of the efforts to produce a free encyclopedia. In addition, Wales already owned the gnupedia.org domain name. The GNUPedia project changed its name to GNE (an abbreviation for "GNE's Not an Encyclopedia", a recursive acronym similar to that of the GNU Project) and switched to a knowledgebase. GNE was designed to avoid centralization and editors who enforced quality standards, which they viewed as possibly introducing bias. Jonathan Zittrain described GNE as a "collective blog" more than an encyclopedia. Stallman has since lent his support to Wikipedia.
It should be noted as a historical footnote that Richard Stallman who inspired the free software and free culture movement also proposed his own encyclopedia in 1999 and attempted to launch it in the same year that Wikipedia took off. Called Gnupedia it coexisted confusingly in the same space as Bomis's Nupedia, a completely separate product. Keeping with tradition Stallman renamed his project GNE - GNE's not an encyclopedia. But in the end Wikipedia's lead and enthusiastic community was already well established and Richard Stallman put the GNE project into inactive status and put his support behind Wikipedia.
The GNU Project offers the following explanation about GNE:
Just as we were starting a project, GNUpedia, to develop a free encyclopedia, the Nupedia encyclopedia project adopted the GNU Free Documentation License and thus became a free commercial project. So we decided to merge GNUpedia project into Nupedia. Now, the Wikipedia encyclopedia project has adopted the philosophy of Nupedia and taken it even further. We encourage you to visit and contribute to the site.
- Stallman, Richard (December 18, 2000). "The Free Universal Encyclopedia and Learning Resource". Retrieved 2013-05-15.
- Reagle, Joseph Michael (2010). Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia. MIT Press. pp. 37–38. ISBN 9780262014472.
- Jimbo Wales gnupedia.org resolves to nupedia // bug-gnupedia mailing list - 21 Jan 2001 (Archived at WebCite)
- Poe, Marshall (September 1, 2006). "The Hive". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on January 3, 2012. Retrieved January 11, 2014.)
- Zittrain, Jonathan (2008). The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It. Yale University Press. pp. 131–133. ISBN 9780300145342.
- The Free Encyclopedia Project gnu.org (Archived at WebCite)
- Lih, Andrew (2009). The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopedia. New York City: Hyperion Books. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-4013-0371-6. OCLC 232977686.
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