Jimmy Wales: Founder of Wikipedia

With a vision for a free online encyclopedia, Wales assembled legions of volunteer contributors, gave them tools for collaborating, and created the self-organizing, self-correcting, ever-expanding, multilingual encyclopedia of the future.

Jimmy Wales went from betting on interest rates and foreign-currency fluctuations (as an option trader) to betting on the willingness of people to share their knowledge. That’s how Wikipedia, imagined in 2001, became one of the most-referenced, most-used repositories of knowledge on the planet, with more than one million articles in English (compared with the Britannica‘s 80,000) and hundreds of thousands in dozens of other languages, all freely available.

The “wiki” in the name refers to software that allows anyone with Internet access to add, delete or edit entries. This has led to controversies about the reliability of the information, prompting the Wikimedia Foundation to set tighter rules for editors, while still keeping Wikipedia open-source. One thing is certain: Wikipedia will never be finished. In the meantime Wales has started working on Wikiasari, a wiki-style search engine.

“Wikipedia represents a belief in the supremacy of reason and the goodness of others. … From the respectful clash of opposing viewpoints and the combined wisdom of the many, something resembling the truth will emerge. Most of the time.”