Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2006-01-16/Look back

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The Wikipedia Signpost


A look back at Wikipedia's fifth year

By Flcelloguy, January 16 2006

Wikipedia has progressed significantly in its fifth year. As Wikipedia enters its sixth year, The Wikipedia Signpost takes a look back at 2005 (and a bit of 2006).

The Signpost published its first issue on January 10, 2005, five days before Wikipedia Day 2005 was celebrated, marking Wikipedia's fourth anniversary. Under founder and editor-in-chief Michael Snow, the Signpost has delivered news to the Wikipedia community every Monday since then. In August, though, after Michael Snow stepped down temporarily, Ral315 took over as editor-in-chief. We are proud to have continued the Signpost non-stop for over 52 weeks now, with over 400 articles written and published by our volunteers.

Besides in The Wikipedia Signpost, Wikipedia itself has seen the number of articles grow exponentially. On March 18, the 500,000th article was created. Less than three months later, on June 19, Wikipedia had reached the 600,000 article mark. In August, we reached 700,000 articles, and on the first day of November, 800,000 articles. Early in the new year, Wikipedia again reached a milestone with its 900,000th article. According to current projections, Wikipedia will have one million articles sometime in February or March. Besides the number of articles, the number of featured articles also rose, surpassing 500 in February. There are currently 850 featured articles.

The number of editors also rose dramatically. In October, the number of registered users surpassed half a million. Earlier in the year in July, the number of administrators reached 500; the current number is now greater than 750. In addition, four Wikipedians were granted bureaucrat status, bringing the total number over 20: Rdsmith4, Nichalp, Linuxbeak, and Francs2000.

The popularity of Wikipedia also increased greatly. According to the Alexa rankings, Wikipedia started 2005 at approximately rank 150. By September, Wikipedia had moved into the top 50 websites of the world, and in January 2006 reached an all-time high one-day rank of 19. Also in January, Alexa reported that Wikipedia's reach was nearly 30,000 per million, and the number of page views had jumped to nearly 2,000 per million page views.

Several technical aspects of Wikipedia were also modified. MediaWiki 1.4 was implemented in March, and 1.5 in June. Also in June, the Wikimedia servers were transported to a new location in Tampa, Florida, causing a planned shut-down of the site while the servers were moved. Earlier, though, the site had temporarily been shut down twice, once in late February and another time in early March. Both of them were unplanned; one lasted for 24 hours, and the other for approximately two hours. The temporary shut-downs were due to a power failure and faulty equipment, respectively.

Other technical features of Wikipedia were also implemented. After the first Wikipedia:Wikiportal was created in February, the Portal: namespace was created. (The first portal was Portal:Biology and the first in the Portal: namespace was Portal:Cricket). In September, the new users log was created so that it would be easier to block bot-generated usernames and inappropriate user names. Around the same time, Lupin released his popups tool, enhancing navigation of Wikipedia. Earlier in the year, CryptoDerk had released his CDVF, a vandal-fighting tool designed to make RC patrol more efficient. Later, following a debate on CheckUser, seven people (all current Arbitrators at the time) were granted CheckUser privileges. In December, semi-protection, the blocking of editing by new and unregistered users, was implemented on MediaWiki and activated after a poll showed almost unanimous support for it. In addition, new measures were taken toward article validation, although no such feature has been implemented yet.

In December, article creation was restricted to registered users only following the Seigenthaler controversy (see below). Access to Wikipedia sites was also blocked in China in October.

There were also changes in the way Wikipedia operates. In February, the templates that are transcluded onto the main page were protected, following severe vandalism. (Obscene images were placed on those templates.) Though the actual page had been protected since 2003, the transcluded templates had been left open for editing. Due to the severe nature of the vandalism, though, all of the templates have been protected ever since. Starting in July, the main page also started showing featured pictures on weekends, where Did You Know? used to be. (Did you know? still appears on weekdays.)

The Wikimedia Foundation also saw major milestones in the year. In April, the foundation was granted tax-exempt status in the United States. In July, Angela Beesley and Florence Nibart-Devouard were both re-elected to the board of the Wikimedia Foundation. The trademark of "Wikipedia" was granted to the foundation in January 2006, completing a process that had begun in September 2004. In October, the Foundation announced that Wikimania 2006 would be held in Boston, Massachusetts. However, the foundation also sparked controversy in October when they announced a partnership with Answers Corporation, parent company of Answers.com. Many users, interpreting the announcement as one to introduce advertising, protested; a WikiProject was even formed to demonstrate against the deal. Board members, such as Jimbo Wales, Angela, and Anthere, later clarified the deal, calming down the situation.

There were also multiple changes in the Arbitration Committee and the stewards. Nine new stewards were elected in January 2006, while one current steward failed to successfully keep his rights. The ArbCom also saw new members. Sannse, Ambi, Delirium, Maveric149, Grunt, and Nohat all resigned in 2005, and Kelly Martin resigned in January 2006. Jimbo Wales appointed five people to the committee this past year (Jdforrester, Fennec, Jayjg, Mindspillage, and Kelly Martin) and also changed the format of the annual elections for ArbCom. The elections were held in January 2006, using support and oppose votes for the first time ever. As of press time, the elections were still ongoing.

Wikipedia came under immense public scrutiny in November and December. The John Seigenthaler Sr. Wikipedia biography controversy was sparked after John Seigenthaler Sr. wrote an editorial in USA Today, criticizing the biography about himself in Wikipedia, which erroneously reported that he had been involved in the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. The person who added the incorrect information, Brian Chase, was later uncovered by Wikipedia critic Daniel Brandt; Chase resigned from his job (from where he had posted the information) and apologized. In response, article creation was restricted to registered users in December in an effort to reduce vandalism and incorrect entries.

Finally, the scientific journal Nature published [1] the results of a comparative review between Encyclopædia Britannica and Wikipedia concerning scientific articles. This was the first comparative review concerning Wikipedia using professionals and was done by scientific experts. After examining 42 articles in both the encyclopedias, Nature concluded that Britannica had 124 total factual errors in the articles (for an average of 2.92 errors per article), while Wikipedia had 162 total errors, for an average of 3.86 per article. Most of the errors in Wikipedia were corrected after the study.

Wikipedia has seen tremendous growth and development in its fifth year, which was primarily in 2005. We've grown into a top-20 website of the world and have become a valuable resource and free encyclopedia to millions. We look forward to a successful 2006 - and we'll be here reporting on it.


Also this week: A look back

Tim Ryan dismissedSubjects defend WikipediaTron disputeTrademark registeredSteward electionArbCom updateWikipedia DayNews and notesPress coverageFeatures and adminsB.R.I.O.N.

T.R.O.L.L.