“Wikipedia is a victory of process over substance”*…
Wikipedia was born in January of 2001. Initially only in English, it quickly became multilingual; the English version is now one of more than 200 Wikipedias, but remains the largest one, with over 4.6 million articles. Wikipedia is the sixth-most popular website and the Internet’s largest and most popular general reference work. As of February 2014, it had 18 billion page views and nearly 500 million unique visitors each month, and more than 22 million accounts… But of course the site had much humbler beginnings.
My, how we’ve grown!
As we ruminate on reference, we might send gilded birthday greetings to William Henry “Bill” Gates III; he was born on this date in 1955. Among his many accomplishments as the head of Microsoft, Gates oversaw the 1993 launch of Encarta, a disc-based encyclopedia. Microsoft created Encarta by purchasing non-exclusive rights to the Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia, using it as the basis for its first edition. Microsoft had originally approached Encyclopædia Britannica, the gold standard of encyclopedias for over a century, in the 1980s; but Brittanica’s owners, the Benton Foundation, declined, believing its print media sales might be hurt; in the event, the Foundation was forced to sell Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. at below book value in 1996 when the print sales could no longer compete with Encarta and the Microsoft distribution channel, which focused on bundling copies with new computer systems. In 2009, Microsoft stopped updating and supporting Encarta, which had migrated to the web; it had been overwhelmed by Wikipedia.