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Nupedia 20030808 screenshot.png
Screenshot from the Wayback Machine
Type of site
Online encyclopedia
Available in
  • English
  • German
  • Spanish
  • French
  • Italian
OwnerBomis (formerly)
Created by at the Wayback Machine (archived 8 August 2003) at the Wayback Machine (archived 7 April 2000)
Launched9 March 2000; 22 years ago (2000-03-09)
Current statusDefunct since September 2003; succeeded by Wikipedia
All three logos used by Nupedia. The first logo was used from March to August 2000, the second from August 2000 to February 2001, and the third from February 2001 to September 2003.

Nupedia was an English-language, online encyclopedia whose articles were written by volunteer contributors with appropriate subject matter expertise, reviewed by expert editors before publication, and licensed as free content. It was founded by Jimmy Wales and underwritten by Bomis, with Larry Sanger as editor-in-chief. Nupedia operated from October 1999[1][2] until September 2003. It is best known today as the predecessor of Wikipedia, but Nupedia had a seven-step approval process to control content of articles before being posted, rather than live wiki-based updating. Nupedia was designed by committee, with experts to predefine the rules, and it had only 21 articles in its first year, compared to Wikipedia posting 200 articles in the first month, and 18,000 in the first year.[3]

Unlike Wikipedia, Nupedia was not a wiki; it was instead characterized by an extensive peer-review process, designed to make its articles of a quality comparable to that of professional encyclopedias. Nupedia wanted scholars (ideally with PhDs) to volunteer content.[4] Before it ceased operating, Nupedia produced 24 approved articles[5][6][7] that had completed its review process and another 150 articles were in progress.[8] Wales preferred Wikipedia's easier posting of articles, while Sanger preferred the peer-reviewed approach used by Nupedia[3] and later founded Citizendium in 2006 as an expert-reviewed alternative to Wikipedia.[9]

In June 2008, CNET UK listed Nupedia as one of the greatest defunct Web sites in the still-young history of the Internet, noting how the strict control had limited the posting of articles.[10]


In October 1999,[11] Jimmy Wales began thinking about an online encyclopedia built by volunteers and, in January 2000, hired Larry Sanger to oversee its development.[2] The project officially went online on March 9, 2000.[12] By November 2000, however, only two full-length articles had been published.[13]

From its beginning, Nupedia was a free content encyclopedia,[12] with Bomis intending to generate revenue from online ads on[13] Initially the project used a homegrown license, the Nupedia Open Content License. In January 2001, it switched to the GNU Free Documentation License at the urging of Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation.[14] Also in January 2001, Nupedia started Wikipedia as a side-project to allow collaboration on articles before entering the peer review process.[15] This attracted interest from both sides, as it provided the less bureaucratic structure favored by advocates of the GNE encyclopedia. As a result, GNE never really developed, and the threat of competition between the projects was averted. As Wikipedia grew and attracted contributors, it quickly developed a life of its own and began to function largely independently of Nupedia, although Sanger initially led activity on Wikipedia by virtue of his position as Nupedia's editor-in-chief.

Besides leading to discontinuation of the GNE project, Wikipedia also led to the gradual demise of Nupedia. Due to the collapse of the internet economy at that time, Jimmy Wales decided to discontinue funding for a salaried editor-in-chief in December 2001,[2] and Sanger resigned from both projects shortly thereafter.[16] After Sanger's departure, Nupedia increasingly became an afterthought to Wikipedia; of the Nupedia articles that completed the review process, only two did so after 2001. As Nupedia dwindled into inactivity, the idea of converting it into a stable version of approved Wikipedia articles was occasionally broached, but never implemented. Nupedia's server later crashed in September 2003.[17][18] Nupedia's encyclopedic content was assimilated into Wikipedia.[19]

Editorial process[edit]

Example of a Nupedia article on the classical era of music.

Nupedia had a seven-step editorial process, consisting of:

  1. Assignment
  2. Finding a lead reviewer
  3. Lead review
  4. Open review
  5. Lead copyediting
  6. Open copyediting
  7. Final approval and markup

Authors were expected to have expert knowledge (although the definition of expert allowed for a degree of flexibility, and it was acknowledged that some articles could be written by a good writer, rather than an expert per se)[20] and the editors approving articles for publication were expected "to be true experts in their fields and (with few exceptions) [to] possess PhDs".[21]

Ruth Ifcher was someone Sanger depended upon and worked closely with on Nupedia's early policies and procedures. Ifcher, holding several higher degrees, was a computer programmer and former copy editor and agreed to be volunteer chief copy editor.[22]

Software development[edit]

Nupedia was powered by NupeCode collaborative software. NupeCode is free/open source software (released under the GNU General Public License) designed for large peer review projects. The code was available via Nupedia's CVS repository. One of the problems experienced by Nupedia during much of its existence was that the software lacked functionality. Much of the missing functionality had been mocked-up using underlined blocks of text which appeared to be hyperlinks, but actually were not.[citation needed]

As part of the project, a new version of the original software (called "NuNupedia") was under development. NuNupedia was implemented for testing at SourceForge, but never reached a sufficient stage of development to replace the original software.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ " WHOIS, DNS, & DomainTools". WHOIS. 2016. Archived from the original on 2017-07-24. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  2. ^ a b c Poe, Marshall (September 2006). "The Hive". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on October 26, 2012. Retrieved January 1, 2007.
  3. ^ a b Sanger, Larry (April 18, 2005). "The Early History of Nupedia and Wikipedia: A Memoir". Slashdot. Archived from the original on May 25, 2009. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  4. ^ Lih, Andrew (2009). The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopedia. London: Aurum. p. 38. ISBN 9781845134730. OCLC 280430641. His academic roots compelled Sanger to insist on one rigid requirement for his editors: a pedigree. "We wish editors to be true experts in their fields and (with a few exceptions) possess Ph.Ds." read the Nupedia policy.
  5. ^ Craig 2013, p. 84
  6. ^ Ayers 2008
  7. ^ Myers 2006, p. 163
  8. ^ "When Wikipedia was young: the early years". VatorNews. 2017-06-13. Archived from the original on 2018-12-26. Retrieved 2018-07-25.
  9. ^ "Wikipedia founder forks Wikipedia". Archived from the original on 2018-12-26. Retrieved 2018-08-07.
  10. ^ Lanxon, Nate (June 5, 2008). "The greatest defunct Web sites and dotcom disasters". CNET UK. p. 5. Archived from the original on August 28, 2019. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  11. ^ " WHOIS, DNS, & Domain Info - DomainTools". WHOIS. Archived from the original on 2017-07-24. Retrieved 2016-07-06.
  12. ^ a b Gouthro, Liane (10 March 2000). "Building the world's biggest encyclopedia". PC World. Archived from the original on July 19, 2009. Retrieved 19 January 2008.
  13. ^ a b Frauenfelder, Mark (November 21, 2000). "The next generation of online encyclopedias". The Industry Standard/CNN. Archived from the original on August 14, 2004. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  14. ^ jwales (January 17, 2001). "Re:GNUPedia = Nupedia?". GNUPedia Project Starting. Slashdot. Archived from the original on June 26, 2013. Retrieved May 25, 2008.
  15. ^ Larry Sanger (January 10, 2001). "Let's make a wiki". Nupedia-l mailing list. Internet Archive. Archived from the original on April 14, 2003.
  16. ^ Sanger, Larry. "My Resignation". Wikipedia-L. Bomis, Inc. Archived from the original on 24 December 2019. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  17. ^ "1 Nazis and Norms". Archived from the original on 2020-04-30. Retrieved 2020-04-25.
  18. ^ Reagle, p. 6
  19. ^ Waters 2010, pp. 179–180
  20. ^ " Editorial Policy Guidelines (Version 3.31)". Nupedia. November 16, 2000. Archived from the original on March 31, 2001. Retrieved June 3, 2010. The rule of thumb an editor should bear in mind is: would an article on this topic be of significantly greater quality if it were written by an expert on the subject? If yes, we will require that the writer be an expert on the subject. If no, nonspecialists (who are good writers) are more than welcome.
  21. ^ "How to be an editor or peer reviewer for Nupedia". Nupedia. Archived from the original on April 10, 2001. Retrieved June 3, 2010.
  22. ^ Lih, Andrew (2009). The Wikipedia Revolution. New York: Hyperion. p. 37. ISBN 9781401303716.
  23. ^ "NuNupedia". SourceForge. Archived from the original on 2018-10-28. Retrieved 2017-02-16.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]