We’re huge fans of Wikipedia. The nonprofit organization represents the largest collection of knowledge collaboratively accumulated in one place — ever.
While the concept of a free, community-managed, online encyclopedia had been around for some time, Wikipedia, as we know it now, officially began with its first edit on Jan. 15, 2001, two days after the domain was registered by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger.
Whether over the last 20 years you’ve used Wikipedia for study or for work, to satisfy random bursts of curiosity, to settle arguments, or to cheat at Zoom quiz nights, we’re all indebted to the amazing free service.
In order to celebrate Wikipedia’s 20th anniversary, we’re sharing 20-plus facts about the free encyclopedia that you never knew you never knew…
1. Wikipedia’s stats are jaw-dropping. It currently has more than 55 million articles across more than 300 languages.
2. There are more than 280,000 editors who take time to contribute to Wikipedia every month.
3. The Wikipedia service is accessed by 1.5 billion unique devices from around the world every single month.
4. There is a Wikipedia Monument (or “Pomnik Wikipedii” if you wanted to call it what the locals do) located in Słubice, Poland. The statue was designed by Armenian sculptor Mihran Hakobyan and pays homage to Wikipedia contributors. It was unveiled in Frankfurt Square in October 2014.
5. We bet you can’t guess who the first person to have a Wikipedia page created after them. Not a current celebrity or global figure — somewhat randomly, 18th-century Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid.
6. Improvements to Wikipedia pages about holiday destinations and cities can have an impact on tourism, potentially increasing the number of nights tourists choose to stay in a city by 9%, according to Italian researchers.
7. Clicking on the first link in the main text of a Wikipedia article, and then repeating the process for subsequent articles, will almost always lead to the Philosophy article. In February 2016, this was true for a staggering 97% of all articles in Wikipedia.
8. In 2017, astronaut Paolo Nespoli recorded his spoken voice while aboard the International Space Station for use on his Wikipedia article — a small step for him, but a giant leap for the Wikimedia movement. This milestone was the first time content had been made in space specifically for Wikipedia.
9. Wikipedia is one of the top 10 most visited websites globally, but is the world’s only major website run by a nonprofit organization.
10. Print Wikipedia was an art project by Michael Mandiberg that printed 106 of the 7,473 volumes of English Wikipedia as it existed on April 7, 2015. The project shows the spines of the first 1,980 volumes in the set, supplemented by 106 actual physical volumes, each of which runs to 700 pages. The table of contents takes up 91 700-page volumes. The project was shown at the Denny Gallery in New York City in the summer of 2015.
11. Lots of Wikipedians love plushies, just take a look at the Wikimedia Cuteness Association. This is run by the “Board of Cuties” — which includes Peter the Platypus — in order to “encourage the participation of plush toys and to promote cuteness in the Wikimedia movement.”
12. On many language editions of Wikipedia, editors show appreciation for each other by giving each other virtual “barnstars.” On the Ukrainian language edition, they’re virtual tins of condensed milk — and sometimes they send them IRL.
13. Love Wikipedia so much you want to wear your affection for it on your sleeve? You kinda can. For its 2020 spring/summer line, the French fashion house Études collaborated with the Wikimedia Foundation to develop a line of Wikipedia-themed apparel, including cozy hoodies and baseball caps.
14. Over 18,000 people at more than 1,260 events around the world have participated in Art + Feminism edit-a-thons, resulting in the creation and improvement of more than 84,000 articles on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.
15. One incredibly dedicated editor has made over 47,000 edits to correct the phrase “comprised of.” The editor, Giraffedata, explains their reasoning behind the project in great detail here. But it’s basically because “comprised of” is considered poor English.
16. Almost 7 million people supported Wikipedia with a donation last year. Let’s hope it’s even more this year.
17. Every year, Wikipedia contributors around the world organize Wiki Loves Monuments, the world’s largest photo competition. Over 60,000 participants from over 40 countries have contributed over 1.7 million photos of cultural heritage since 2010. It still took place in 2020, but under Covid-safe guidelines.
18. Each article on Wikipedia has a transparent revision history. You can go back in time to see how every article was written, step by step.
19. People who work on Wikipedia are called Wikipedians. Building the world’s largest database of information with people from all over can be challenging. Wikipedians write rules, guidelines, and essays to help other people understand being a Wikipedian. “No angry mastodons”, an essay, suggests that you shouldn’t edit when you’re hungry or intoxicated. Solid advice.
20. One of the first Wikipedia articles ever written was for the standard poodle. It simply said, “A dog by which all others are measured.” The English Wikipedia page for poodle is now more than 6,000 words, and includes the many words that people have invented to name poodles crossed with other dog breeds, including; Labradoodle, Poochon, Cockapoo, Spoodle, Maltipoo, Goldendoodle, Schnoodle, Pekapoos, Cavapoo, and Bernedoodle.
21. Wikipedia has an asteroid named after it. The 274301 Wikipedia is a Vestian asteroid orbiting in the inner region of the asteroid belt. It measures approximately 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) in diameter.
22. Wikipedia develops at a rate of over 1.9 edits per second, performed by editors from all over the world. So, if this took you five minutes to read, 570 edits were made on Wikipedia by the time you reached the end of this list.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these Wikipedia-themed facts and you now know more about the free encyclopedia than you did before. We’re certainly very grateful for the 20 years of free reference content we’ve enjoyed from Wikipedia and would like to wish the fabulous nonprofit organization all the very best for the next 20…
With thanks to the Wikimedia Foundation for their help with research for this article.