English Wikipedia Rapidly Approaching 1.5 Million Articles

November 23, 2006

The Special:Statistics page at Wikipedia is an extremely useful one, telling us all kinds of wonderful things about the website we’ve all used and abused for school assignments, general fact-checking, and impressing the ladies with our tremendous detailed knowledge of Japanese cartoon characters. And today it tells us something new: Wikipedia is now tantalisingly close to passing the 1.5 million article mark.

In fact, Wikipedia has 1,497,498 articles, which have been contributed to across more than 92 million edits. In fact, as of June 2006, the number of new articles at Wikipedia was growing by well over 2,000 per day, and it’s easy to believe that the site will have surpassed the 1.5 million mark before the weekend.

This comes at an interesting time, because we recently reported on two other landmarks that had been reached: namely, that October 2006 was both the first month in which the number of new articles had decreased month-to-month for years, and the month in which the Wikimedia Foundation raised the most money ever without running a fundraising drive, at over $40,000. So not only does it appear that Wikipedia’s rate of growth is slowly beginning to decrease, but it also appears that the website is slowly coming close to break-even point without the need for fundraisers.

Actually, that’s wrong. The Foundation has a huge amount of money in the bank at the moment, because it runs up well over $100,000 in expenses every month due to the high costs of hosting, employing their three full-time staff members and part-time bookkeeper, and so on. This $40,000 doesn’t go far, but it’s encouraging to note that the amount they raise each month is slowly climing — the WMF may one day soon be in the red.

Another positive note to take from this is that, at nearly 1.5 million articles and well over half a million media files, Wikipedia is reaching the point where the most important job is not the addition of new content, but the improvement of what they already have. Users now tend to focus more on the improvement of articles rather than their creation, and there are a core of Wikipedians that spend inordinate amounts of time raising articles that they know nothing about to a minimal standard of quality, ensuring that they comply with the Manual of Style and so on. Here’s to them, the WikiGnomes.

The matter of costs I raised above raises an important issue, though, of the Wikimedia Foundation’s technical leadership. Kelly Martin has a lot to say on the topic, all of it well-informed and well thought out, arguing that the MediaWiki software behind the site needs additional features and, more importantly, that the WMF needs a Chief Technical Officer to manage the site. Her posts make interesting reading, and I highly recommend you check them out.

read more | digg story

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