Wikipedia celebrates 15 years of free knowledge

Adapted from Katherine Maher’s post on the WMF blog.

As Wikipedia marks its 15th anniversary, its community is celebrating with nearly 150 events on six continents.

This Friday marks the 15th anniversary of Wikipedia, the world’s free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit. This week, we celebrate not just Wikipedia, but the birth of an idea: that anyone can contribute to the world’s knowledge. Globally, readers and editors are coming together to celebrate, with nearly 150 events across six continents. From editing marathons in Bangladesh and lectures in Switzerland, to picnics in South Africa and a conference in Mexico, the world is celebrating the joy of knowledge.

Wikipedia launched on January 15, 2001 with a bold vision: a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. At the time, the idea that people around the world would collaborate to build an encyclopaedia—for free—seemed unbelievable. Since then, Wikipedia has grown to more than 36 million articles in hundreds of languages, used by hundreds of millions of people all over the world. Wikipedia and its sister projects are still built by volunteers around the world: each month, roughly 80,000 volunteer editors contribute to Wikimedia sites.

“Wikipedia challenged us to rethink how knowledge can be gathered and shared” said Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. “Knowledge is no longer handed down from on high, instead it is freely shared by everyone online. Wikipedia seemed like an impossible idea at the time—an online encyclopaedia that everyone can edit. However, it has surpassed everyone’s expectations over the past 15 years, thanks to the hundreds of thousands of volunteers around the world who have made Wikipedia possible.”

We’re celebrating Wikipedia’s global community with a commemorative website and week-long campaign, collecting and sharing the stories of individuals and organizations that have helped develop Wikipedia into the world’s largest collection of collaboratively created free knowledge. These stories show the truly global nature of the Wikimedia community: from Ziyad Alsufyani, a medical student at Taif University in Ta’if, Saudi Arabia who has been editing the Arabic Wikipedia since 2009, to Susanna Mkrtchyan, a professor and devoted grandmother working to give Armenian students better educational opportunities. We will continue to collect stories throughout the month of January.

Today, we celebrate all of the projects, partnerships, events, and joy the Wikimedia movement has inspired over the past 15 years, with many still to come. Wikipedia is much more than a website. Wikipedia and its sister Wikimedia projects represent a global, ever-expanding resource and community for free knowledge. Here are just a few examples:

  • Wikipedia started in January 2001 in English, but soon expanded to other languages—within the first year, it grew to 18 languages. Today, it is available in nearly 300.
  • Volunteers constantly edit and improve Wikipedia. Every hour, roughly 15,000 edits are made to Wikipedia. Every day, around 7,000 new articles are created.
  • Wikipedia became one of the top 10 websites in the world in 2007, and the only non-profit website anywhere near the top.
  • It’s not just Wikipedia. There are 11 other Wikimedia free knowledge projects, including Wikimedia Commons, with more than 30 million freely licensed images, as well as Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikivoyage, and more.
  • The Wikimedia community supports global projects that spread the joy of knowledge. Wiki Loves Monuments, a global photo competition, launched in 2010 to document images of cultural heritage. In 2011, the contest was named the largest photo competition in the world. Companion projects like Wiki Loves Earth,Wiki Loves Africa, and even Wiki Loves Cheese document more knowledge from around the globe.
  • Volunteers around the world have built hundreds of partnerships with galleries, libraries, museums to make institutional collections more broadly available. These partnerships have contributed to more than 1.5 million images of cultural works on the Wikimedia projects.

If you’d like to help celebrate Wikipedia’s 15th anniversary, you can share on social media what Wikipedia means to you by tagging @Wikipedia and using the hashtag #wikipedia15. To learn more about Wikipedia and the joy it inspires, visit