What is the world’s 5th most visited website with a CEO who isn’t a billionaire?
The story begins in 1996 with Jimmy Wales, a 30-year-old book nerd from Chicago. He co-founded Bomis, a search engine that focused on women wearing very little. With the profits, he financed his long-time dream—Nupedia—an online encyclopedia written by experts. But wait, what if anyone was able to edit it? Obsessed with this idea, he and co-founder Larry Sanger launched the “wiki” encyclopedia—Wikipedia—in 2001.
The revenue model? Not to bother with revenue. Instead, they set up a nonprofit foundation, shunning investors and advertisers. It would be owned collectively and built by volunteers from any walk of life. Anyone could be an “editor” and valued editors could become “administrators.”
At first, it was considered a doomed experiment and its inaccuracies were ridiculed. Online vandals began replacing text with silliness. For instance, someone once stated that “Room Temperature” is a temperature at which humans are gay* 🤔🤦♂️. But as “wikipedians” grew in their thousands, the quality has improved. With page views rocketing, Wales’ altruistic vision got him a TED talk and a spot in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.
Today, Wikipedia hosts almost 50 million articles in 299 languages. Wales aims to grow the site to all languages of the developing world and help remove political barriers, fact by fact. To date, Wikipedia remains resolutely not-for–profit, despite raising $91m in donations last year.
THE POWER OF COMMUNITY
The leadership model of Jimmy Wales is exemplary. By rallying people and harnessing the power of community, he was able to create the biggest online encyclopedia the world has ever seen. As we’re laser-focused on creating products and personal profit, we tend to forget the power of building a community. #justsaying.
© Story by Tarek Issa.