Jimmy Wales, founder of the world’s largest digital encyclopedia, told two audiences at the Van Wezel Monday that he created Wikipedia as a 501(c)3 nonprofit that doesn’t accept advertising because “it gives us intellectual independence.” Instead, the platform that he calls a “knowledge revolution” relies primarily on an army of small donors
Wales, in Sarasota as part of the Town Hall series presented by the Ringling College of Art and Design Library Association, laid out the scope of the online enterprise he founded 18 years ago: It’s the fifth most accessed website in the world, with 40-plus million articles in 270 languages. Some 1.5 billion devices click on Wikipedia every month to explore an enormously broad range of information that is developed through a community of volunteers to research, write and validate the entries.
The mission of Wikipedia, Wales said, is to “imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.”
Wales told the audience he has begun two fledgling new initiatives: a Wikimedia endowment to be used sometime in the future for a project not yet identified; and Wiki Tribune, a separate project that will partner professional journalists with the Wiki community to create “thoughtful journalism.”
At a press conference before the morning lecture, Wales was presented with a portrait created by Oriane Miyashiro, a 20-year-old student artist working towards a B.F.A. in Illustration at the Ringling College of Art and Design.