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.

Why you should listen

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 four and a half million articles in English (compared with the Britannica's 80,000) and millions 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.

What others say

“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.” — WIRED

Jimmy Wales’ TED talk

More news and ideas from Jimmy Wales

Live from TED

Lies, sex, an even freer Wikipedia and Sir Ken at a slaughterhouse: A recap of “The future is ours,” All-Stars Session 5 at TED2014

March 20, 2014

By Kate Torgovnick, Morton Bast, Thu-Huong Ha The future. When it comes down to it, it’s not about flying cars, flashy robots, jetpacks, or awesome sunglasses. It’s about the little things we can do to advance healthcare, better education, create opportunities, improve connections between each other, and make lives just a little bit easier. In […]

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The birth of Wikipedia: Jimmy Wales on TED.com

August 10, 2009

For the next two weeks, while TED’s media team takes a much needed vacation, we will not be posting a new TEDTalk daily. However, to sate the appetites of our loyal viewers, we will be highlighting some of the choicest gems from our online archives. Over the next couple of weeks, expect to see talks […]

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