How was Wikipedia started 1

Podcast NPP 219Wikipedia is the first digital wonder of the world

I don't know when I first stumbled upon Wikipedia. It must have been 18 or 19 years ago, the encyclopedia was still in its infancy, but you could already guess the potential. At that time I found free software very exciting, as did the debates about the extent to which these software-specific development models could be translated to other areas.

At the same time, it was difficult to explain the open source principles and community mechanisms to non-techies using software development. Wikipedia changed everything, especially as it became more popular. Finally there was a simpler example of describing cooperation and access to knowledge. And it worked: to collect the world's knowledge together. In a wiki that was an interesting new collaboration tool at the time.

Throughout the noughties, the Wikipedia community was often laughed at for its mission and commitment by those who still hoped that digitization would soon disappear again. Sharing knowledge together, volunteering to write articles on the most niche topics you can imagine - that couldn't work. Who would come up with such a stupid idea and, above all, who would believe in such a crazy utopia?

But then it was already clear that the model was more forward-looking than the annual printing of encyclopedic knowledge in long rows of books that were no longer up-to-date when they were gathering dust on the shelf as decoration.

The greatest success model of the network oriented towards the common good

The 20-year history has shown that Wikipedia is one of the greatest models of success on the Internet, if not the largest of the common good-oriented part of the Internet. Children today grow up taking it for granted that knowledge can and should be shared. How great is that?!

But of course Wikipedia is not perfect, it is an ongoing process. There are many points that are not yet ready or where improvements are needed. The majority of Wikipedia is still written by men, and this bias is often noticeable. A huge set of rules has been established over the years, which in most cases is certainly necessary for open collaboration. But is the set of rules also beginners: friendly enough to the inside to motivate more people to participate, or is it also easier? Because newcomers are needed in every community to bring fresh wind and motivation in.

Participate at all! Wikipedia is not just the hardworking community that writes, improves, corrects, clears out and discusses articles on a voluntary basis in their free time. You and I are also Wikipedia when we use it, read it and link it. Why not give some time and an article or the improvement of articles today and in the future.

Let's make it better together! Happy birthday, Wikipedia, keep staying open and free. And thanks to the great community behind it, you are hero: inside!

On the occasion of the birthday, Leonhard Dobusch and I talked about our longstanding support for Wikipedia, we reflect on what has emerged there, also talk about the taboos of the community and look to the coming years and their challenges.

Here is the MP3 and here is an OGG.

(There was a problem with my soundtrack at the beginning, after about eight minutes everything sounds as planned.)

Our wishes for a birthday

We also have some specific requests for addressees other than the Wikipedia community:

  • Content financed with public money should of course also become a public good. Public money, public code!
  • More public service content under a Wikipedia-compatible free license!
  • More school groups that mediate Wikipedia! (Yes, that would of course require digitization in schools ...)
  • And we need better acceptance and promotion of digital volunteering in our society!

We also made a video of it:

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About the author


Markus Beckedahl blogged as early as 2002 in the original form of and has been developing the platform as editor-in-chief since 2004. started as part of the newthinking communications GmbH, which he co-founded and from which the re: publica conference, which he co-founded, arose. Markus Beckedahl has been a member of the media council of the Berlin-Brandenburg State Media Authority since 2010 and was a member of the "Internet and Digital Society" commission of inquiry in the German Bundestag from 2010-2013. In the time before he was once active with the Greens. He writes the weekly bits newsletter from the netzpolitik universe. Contact: Mail: markus (ett) / Telephone: + 49-30-92105-986 (during working hours) - You can also find it on Facebook: Twitter and Instagram.
Published 01/14/2021 at 5:00 p.m.