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Jimmy Wales

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Jimmy Donal Wales, also known as Jimbo Wales, (b. 1966)[4] is an American Internet entrepreneur best known for his role in founding Wikipedia and starting various other wiki-related projects, including the charitable organization Wikimedia Foundation, and the for-profit company Wikia, Inc.[5]

Personal life

Wales' father worked as a grocery store manager while his mother, Doris, and his grandmother, Erma, ran a small private school "in the tradition of the one-room schoolhouse"[6] where Wales received his education. Most of the time there were four children in his grade so the school grouped the first, second, third and fourth grade students together and the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students together.


After eighth grade, Wales attended Randolph School, a university-preparatory school in Huntsville, Alabama, which was an early supporter of computer labs and other technology for student use. Wales has said that the school was expensive for his family, but that education was regarded as important. "Education was always a passion in my household … you know, the very traditional approach to knowledge and learning and establishing that as a base for a good life."[6] He received his Bachelor's degree in finance from Auburn University and started with the Ph.D. finance program at the University of Alabama, where he left with a Master's in finance.[6] After that, he took courses offered in the Ph.D. finance program at Indiana University. He taught at both universities during his postgraduate studies, but did not write the doctoral dissertation required to earn a Ph.D.[6]


Jimmy Wales speaking at FOSDEM 2005.
Jimmy Wales speaking at FOSDEM 2005.

From 1994-2000, Wales served as research director at Chicago Options Associates, a futures and options trader in Chicago.[6] By "betting on interest rate and foreign-currency fluctuations" he had soon earned enough to "support himself and his wife for the rest of their lives", according to Daniel Pink of Wired Magazine.[7] During this time one of the projects Wales undertook was the creation of a dot-com erotic search engine, Bomis, that later helped in the initial funding for Wikipedia. Wales describes Bomis as a "guy-oriented search engine" that often sold erotic materials which was similar in nature to "Maxim" magazine with sometimes scantily clad women. Others have described Bomis as "soft-core pornography".[6]

In a 2007 interview Wales claimed that in 1999 he had a student design software for a top-down design multilingual encyclopedia website, however it was too slow to be usable.[8]

In March 2000, he started a peer-reviewed, open-content encyclopedia, Nupedia ("the free encyclopedia"), and hired Larry Sanger to be its editor-in-chief.[6]

Wikipedia and Wikimedia Foundation

Jimmy Wales (far left) at a session on Open Source, Open Access, at the Owning the Future conference held in New Delhi, India,  August 24, 2006.
Jimmy Wales (far left) at a session on Open Source, Open Access, at the Owning the Future conference held in New Delhi, India, August 24, 2006.
Main article: History of Wikipedia

After Larry Sanger publicly proposed on January 10, 2001 the idea of using a wiki to create an encyclopedia, Wales installed wiki software on a server and authorized Sanger to pursue the project under his supervision. Sanger dubbed the project "Wikipedia" and, with Wales, laid down the founding principles, content and established an Internet-based community of contributors during that year. Wikipedia was initially intended to be a wiki-based site for collaboration on early encyclopedic content for submission to Nupedia, but Wikipedia's rapid growth soon outstripped Nupedia's process capacity to review new content.[citation needed] Sanger was laid off in early 2002 and he then resigned from the leadership of Wikipedia.[9][10][11][12] Wales has said that he initially was so worried with the concept that he'd wake up in the middle of the night, wanting to check the site for vandalism.[8]

Jimmy Wales on the Holbeinsteg bridge in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, during a shooting break of a documentary film on Wikipedia created by French-German TV station arte.
Jimmy Wales on the Holbeinsteg bridge in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, during a shooting break of a documentary film on Wikipedia created by French-German TV station arte.

In mid-2003, Wales set up the Wikimedia Foundation,[13] a non-profit organization based in St. Petersburg, Florida, to support Wikipedia and its younger sibling projects.[citation needed] He appointed himself and two business partners who are not active Wikipedians to the five-member board; the remaining two members are elected community representatives.[citation needed]

Wales has explained his motivations about Wikipedia. In an interview with Slashdot, he said, "Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing."[14]

He also later went on to co-found, along with Angela Beesley, the for-profit company Wikia, Inc.

Media appearances and honors

Wales being interviewed on the red carpet of the 2006 Time 100, by Amanda Congdon for Rocketboom, a daily Internet vidcast.
Wales being interviewed on the red carpet of the 2006 Time 100, by Amanda Congdon for Rocketboom, a daily Internet vidcast.

Wales was appointed a fellow of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School in 2005. On October 3, 2005, according to a press release,[15] Wales joined the Board of Directors of Socialtext, a provider of wiki technology to businesses. In 2006, he joined the Board of Directors of the non-profit organization Creative Commons.[16]

Wales received an honorary degree from Knox College on June 3, 2006. The Electronic Frontier Foundation awarded him a Pioneer Award on May 3, 2006.[17]

Wales was the first person listed in the "Scientists & Thinkers" section of the May 8, 2006 special edition of Time ("The lives and ideas of the world's most influential people"), listing 100 influential people.[18]

On November 4, 2006, Wales appeared in the "Not My Job" segment of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, a weekly news-quiz show on National Public Radio. The topic was "It must be True, I read it on Wikipedia". He answered all three questions incorrectly.[19]

Wales appeared on PBS' Charlie Rose on October 6, 2006.[20]

Jimmy Wales was nominated for Beard of the Year 2006,[21] and Forbes "The Web Celebs 25" ranked him #12 in 2007.[22]



In 1996, Wales founded a search portal called Bomis, which also sold erotic materials until mid-2005. He was asked in a September 2005 C-SPAN interview about his previous involvement with what the interviewer, Brian Lamb, called "dirty pictures." In response, Wales described Bomis as a "guy-oriented search engine", with a market similar to that of Maxim magazine.[6] In an interview with Wired News, he also explained that he disputed the categorization of Bomis content as "soft-core pornography": "If R-rated movies are porn, it was porn. In other words, no, it was not."[23]

Wikipedia revisionism

In late 2005, Wales was criticised for editing his own biography page on Wikipedia. Larry Sanger commented that "it seemed [Wales] was trying to rewrite history".[23][24][25] In particular, Rogers Cadenhead drew attention to logs showing that Wales had removed references to Sanger as the co-founder of Wikipedia.[25][26] He was also observed to have modified references to Bomis in a way that was characterized as downplaying the sexual nature of some of his former company's products.[23] An article in the July 31, 2006 issue of the New Yorker magazine [4] expanded on this topic:

In both cases, Wales argued that his modifications were solely intended to improve the accuracy of the content.[23] Wales explained that Sanger had been his employee,[27] and that he considered himself to be the sole founder of Wikipedia. In 2006, Wales told the Boston Globe that "it's preposterous" to call Sanger the co-founder;[28] however, Sanger strongly contests that description. He was identified as a co-founder of Wikipedia at least as early as September 2001[29] and referred to himself that way as early as January 2002.[30] [31][32]

Following this incident, Wales apologized for editing his own biography, which is a practice generally frowned upon at Wikipedia. Wales said in the Wired interview, "People shouldn't do it, including me. I wish I hadn't done it."[23] He continues to assert that he is the sole founder of Wikipedia.[28] However, it has been reported that Wales is the co-founder.[33][34][35]

Personal philosophy

Wales has been a passionate adherent of Ayn Rand's Objectivism. When asked by Brian Lamb in his appearance on C-SPAN's Q&A about Rand, Wales cited "the virtue of independence" as important to him personally. When asked if he could trace "the Ayn Rand connection" to having a political philosophy at the time of the interview, Wales reluctantly labeled himself a libertarian, qualifying his remark by referring to the Libertarian Party as "lunatics" and citing "freedom, liberty, basically individual rights, that idea of dealing with other people in a matter that is not initiating force against them" as his guiding principles.[6] From 1992 to 1996, he ran the electronic mailing list "Moderated Discussion of Objectivist Philosophy".[36]

Published works by Wales

  • Robert Brooks, Jon Corson, and J. Donal Wales. "The Pricing of Index Options When the Underlying Assets All Follow a Lognormal Diffusion", in Advances in Futures and Options Research, volume 7, 1994. See also Log-normal distribution.

Sources and notes

  1. ^ Founder of Wikipedia plans search engine to rival Google. Times Online (December 23, 2006). Retrieved on 2006-12-23.
  2. ^ "Board of Trustees" at Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved on 2007-01-12.
  3. ^
  4. ^ NNDB note
  5. ^ McNichol, Tom. "Wikipedia founder hunts for gold", Business 2.0, CNN, 2007-03-01. Retrieved on 2007-03-10.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lamb, Brian (September 25, 2005). Q&A: Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder. C-SPAN. Retrieved on 2006-07-11.
  7. ^ Pink, Daniel H. (2005-03-13). The Book Stops Here. Wired. Retrieved on 2006-10-09.
  8. ^ a b In Search of an Online Utopia February 1, 2007
  9. ^ My resignation--Larry Sanger March 1, 2002, retrieved on October 19, 2006.
  10. ^ Wikipedia's co-founder eyes a Digital Universe January 6, 2006.
  11. ^ Co-Founder to Launch Edited Version of Wikipedia October 17, 2006.
  12. ^ My role in Wikipedia January 2007
  13. ^ Wikimedia foundation bylaws
  14. ^ Wales, Jimmy (2004-07-28). "Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales Replies". Slashdot. Retrieved on 2006-06-07.
  15. ^ "Wikipedia Founder Joins Socialtext Board", Socialtext, 3 October 2005.
  16. ^ "Creative Commons Adds Two New Board Members", Creative Commons, 30 March 2006.
  17. ^ EFF Honors Craigslist, Gigi Sohn, and Jimmy Wales with Pioneer Awards. Kansas City infoZine News (2006-04-28). Retrieved on 2006-06-05.
  18. ^ Anderson, Chris. "Jimmy Wales: The (Proud) Amateur Who Created Wikipedia", Time, 2006-05-08. Retrieved on 2006-04-30.
  19. ^ "This Week's Show 4 November 2006" (2006-11-04).
  20. ^ video
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b c d e Hansen, Evan. Wikipedia Founder Edits Own Bio. Wired News. Wired. Retrieved on 2006-02-14.
  24. ^ Rhys Blakely. Wikipedia founder edits himself. Times Online. Retrieved on 2006-10-15.
  25. ^ a b Rogers Cadenhead. Wikipedia Founder Looks Out for Number 1. Retrieved on 2006-10-15.
  26. ^ Wikipedia diff showing modification by Mr. Wales. Retrieved on 2006-10-15.
  27. ^ Jonathan Sidener. "Everyone's Encyclopedia", San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved on 2006-10-15.
  28. ^ a b Knott, Janet. "Bias, sabotage haunt Wikipedia's free world", The Boston Globe, 2006-02-12. Retrieved on 2006-04-12.
  29. ^ Peter Meyers. "Fact-Driven? Collegial? This Site Wants You", New York Times, 2001-09-20. Retrieved on 2006-10-15.
  30. ^ Sanger, Larry. What Wikipedia is and why it matters. Retrieved on 2006-04-12.
  31. ^ In addition to developing Wikipedia in its early phase, Sanger claims he is also responsible for the idea of applying the wiki concept to the building of a free encyclopedia. It is undisputed that he also coined the name of the project. He nevertheless ascribed the broader idea to Wales: "To be clear, the idea of an open source, collaborative encyclopedia, open to contribution by ordinary people, was entirely Jimmy's, not mine, and the funding was entirely by Bomis. (…) The actual development of this encyclopedia was the task he gave me to work on."
  32. ^ Sanger, Larry. "The Early History of Nupedia and Wikipedia: A Memoir", Slashdot, 2005-04-18. Retrieved on 2005-04-18.
  33. ^ [1]
  34. ^ [2]
  35. ^ [3]
  36. ^ Wales, Jimmy (23 September 1992). "Re: Objectivism of Ayn Rand". talk.philosophy.misc. (Google Groups).

External links

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  • Wales' Wikipedia user page
  • Larry Sanger about the origins of Wikipedia
  • Jimmy Wales Official Blog
News media
  • Setsuko Kamiya. "Power to the Wikipeople", The Japan Times, 2007-03-11.
  • "Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales discusses encyclopedias, Microsoft and the next big thing(s) on the Internet", Newsweek, 2007-02-01.
  • "It's a Wiki world out there for the Web's groupmind", USA Today, 2003-07-01.
  • Mark Hurst. "Interview: Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales", Good Experience, 2005-03-10.
  • Michael Hinman. "St. Petersburg tech brain creates 'wiki' world with online encyclopedia", Tampa Bay Business Journal, 2005-09-23.
  • Andrew Orlowski. "Wikipedia founder admits serious quality problems", The Register, 2005-10-18.
  • Nathan C. Kaiser. "Interview with Jimmy Wales, WikiPedia Founder",, 2005-11-01.
  • Brad Stone. "It's Like a Blog, But It's a Wiki", Newsweek, 2005-11-01.
  • Joseph D. Bryant. "Alabamian is brain behind Wikipedia", The Birmingham News, 2005-12-31.
  • Rhys Blakely. "Wikipedia Chief considers taking ads", Times Online, 2005-12-30.
  • David Colman. "Industrial Art Illuminates Life", New York Times, 2006-08-13.
  • Video of Jimmy Wales speaking at Gel 2005 conference April 29, 2005
  • Open Source - The Wikipedia May 19, 2005 - hosted by Christopher Lydon
  • “The Intelligence of Wikipedia" Talk Video of Jimmy Wales talk given at the Oxford Internet Institute - recorded 11 July 2005
  • Video of Jimmy Wales speaking at TED Global Conference (July 12-July 15, 2005) Oxford, UK
  • Video of Jimmy Wales discussing Wikipedia 40 minutes from a talk Jimmy held at Stanford on 2 September 2005 available as an avi in torrent form and licensed under the Creative Commons (QuickTime: 200 MB, 70 MB)
  • IT Conversations interview with Jimbo - recorded 3 September 2005
  • Speech on Wednesday, October 5, 2005
  • Video of Jimmy Wales interview by Irene McGee of NoOne's Listening 9 minutes, from Media Alliance event held in San Francisco on 10 October 2005
  • Talk of the Nation - Wikipedia, Open Source and the Future of the Web, November 2, 2005
  • Audio of Jimmy Wales talk at the iSchool, UC Berkeley about Community & politics & future plans & other things, November 3, 2005
  • Jimmy Wales Talks Wikipedia on The Writing Show recorded 5 December 2005, posted 1 January 2006
  • Jimmy Wales Keynote Speech on Wikipedia, Mass Tech Leadership Council meeting, February 8, 2006. Podcast by Dan Bricklin Podcast description.
  • "Vision: Wikipedia and the Future of Free Culture" for The Long Now Foundation in San Francisco, April 14, 2006
  • Video of "Vision: Wikipedia and the Future of Free Culture" for The Long Now Foundation in San Francisco, April 14, 2006
  • Audio interview on FLOSS Weekly, May 26, 2006
  • Audio interview on On Point, August 2, 2006
  • No One's Listening interview of Jimmy Wales
  • BBC Radio Five interview, (January 8, 2007)
  • Interview with RU Sirius (January 29, 2007)
  • Video of and notes from Jimmys Talk on Free Culture, Transparency, and Search at New York University (January 31, 2007)
  • MP3 of Jimmy's talk at New York University (January 31, 2007)
  • Jimmy Wales interviewed on KQED's Forum Program, January 5, 2007


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