Last updated
Nupedia logo and wordmark.png
Nupedia, the open content encyclopedia 2000-08-15.png
Screenshot from the Wayback Machine
Type of site
Online encyclopedia
Available inEnglish, German, Spanish, French, Italian
Owner Bomis
Created by Jimmy Wales, Larry Sanger
URL at the Wayback Machine (archived 2003-02-15) at the Wayback Machine (archived 7 April 2000)
Launched9 March 2000;20 years ago (2000-03-09)
Current statusDefunct since 26 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 logos.png
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, web-based 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 lasted from October 1999 [1] [2] until September 2003. It is mostly 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 approved 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 25 approved articles [5] that had completed its review process (three articles also existed in two versions of different lengths),[ citation needed ] and 150 more articles were in progress. [6] Jimmy Wales preferred Wikipedia's easier posting of articles, while Larry Sanger preferred the peer-reviewed approach used by Nupedia [3] and later founded Citizendium in 2006 as an expert reviewed alternative to Wikipedia. [7]


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. [8]


In October 1999, [9] 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. [10] By November 2000, however, only two full-length articles had been published. [11]

From its beginning, Nupedia was a free content encyclopedia, [10] with Bomis intending to generate revenue from online ads on [11] 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. [12]

Also in January 2001, Nupedia started Wikipedia as a side-project to allow collaboration on articles before entering the peer review process. [13] 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. [14] 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. The Nupedia website at was shut down on September 26, 2003. [15] Nupedia's encyclopedic content, which was often described as limited, has since been assimilated into Wikipedia.

Editorial process

Example of a Nupedia article on the classical era of music. Nupedia article example.png
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) [16] and the editors approving articles for publication were expected "to be true experts in their fields and (with few exceptions) [to] possess PhDs". [17]

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. [18]

Software development

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. [19]

See also

Related Research Articles

History of Wikipedia Historical development of Wikipedia

Wikipedia began with its first edit on 15 January 2001, two days after the domain was registered by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. Its technological and conceptual underpinnings predate this; the earliest known proposal for an online encyclopedia was made by Rick Gates in 1993, and the concept of a free-as-in-freedom online encyclopedia was proposed by Richard Stallman in December 2000.

UseModWiki wiki software

UseModWiki is a wiki engine written in the Perl programming language. It is licensed under the GNU General Public License. Pages in UseModWiki are stored in ordinary files, not in a relational database.

Wiki type of website that visitors can edit

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GNE (encyclopedia) Former free content encyclopedia

GNE was a project to create a free content encyclopedia under the auspices of the Free Software Foundation. The project was proposed by Richard Stallman in December 2000 and it officially started in January 2001. It was moderated by Héctor Facundo Arena, an Argentinian programmer and GNU activist.

German Wikipedia German language edition of Wikipedia

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Magnus Manske German biochemist and MediaWiki developer

Heinrich Magnus Manske is a senior staff scientist at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK and a software developer of one of the first versions of the MediaWiki software, which powers Wikipedia.

Wikimedia movement Social movement around Wikimedia including content publications, Wikimedia organizations, and independent editors

The Wikimedia movement, or simply Wikimedia, is the global community of contributors to Wikimedia Foundation projects. The movement was created around Wikipedia's community, and has since expanded to the other Wikimedia projects, including the commons projects Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata, and volunteer software engineers and developers contributing to MediaWiki. These volunteers are supported by numerous organizations around the world, including the Wikimedia Foundation, related chapters, thematic organizations, and user groups.

Digital Universe was a free online information service founded in 2006. The project aimed to create a "network of portals designed to provide high-quality information and services to the public". Subject matter experts were to have been responsible for reviewing and approving content; contributors were to have been both experts and the public.

Jimmy Wales Wikipedia co-founder

Jimmy Donal "Jimbo" Wales is an American-British Internet entrepreneur. He is a co-founder of the online non-profit encyclopedia Wikipedia and the for-profit web hosting company Wikia.

Wikipedia Free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit

Wikipedia is a multilingual online encyclopedia created and maintained as an open collaboration project by a community of volunteer editors, using a wiki-based editing system. It is the largest and most popular general reference work on the World Wide Web, and is one of the 20 most popular websites ranked by Alexa, as of March 2020. It features exclusively free content and no commercial ads and is owned and supported by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization funded primarily through donations.

Citizendium Internet wiki encyclopedia stressing editorial credibility

Citizendium is an English-language wiki-based free encyclopedia project launched by Larry Sanger, who co-founded Nupedia and Wikipedia.

<i>Scholarpedia</i> English-language online wiki-based encyclopedia

Scholarpedia is an English-language online wiki-based encyclopedia with features commonly associated with open-access online academic journals, which aims to have quality content.

History of wikis history of wiki collaborative platforms

The history of wikis begins in 1994, when Ward Cunningham gave the name "WikiWikiWeb" to the knowledge base, which ran on his company's website at, and the wiki software that powered it. The "wiki went public" in March 1995—the date used in anniversary celebrations of the wiki's origins. is thus the first true wiki, or a website with pages and links that can be easily edited via the browser, with a reliable version history for each page. He chose "WikiWikiWeb" as the name based on his memories of the "Wiki Wiki Shuttle" at Honolulu International Airport, and because "wiki" is the Hawaiian word for "quick".

Veropedia Internet encyclopedia project

Veropedia was a free, advertising-supported Internet encyclopedia project launched in late October 2007. It was taken down in January 2009, pending creation of a new version.

Spanish Wikipedia Spanish language edition of Wikipedia

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Bomis Former dot-com company associated with Nupedia and Wikipedia

Bomis was a dot-com company best known for supporting the creations of free-content online-encyclopedia projects Nupedia and Wikipedia. It was co-founded in 1996 by Jimmy Wales, Tim Shell, and Michael Davis. By 2007, the company was inactive with its Wikipedia-related resources transferred to the Wikimedia Foundation.

<i>The Wikipedia Revolution</i> Popular history book by Andrew Lih

The Wikipedia Revolution: How A Bunch of Nobodies Created The World's Greatest Encyclopedia is a 2009 popular history book by new media researcher and writer Andrew Lih.

Larry Sanger American Internet project developer and Wikipedia co-founder

Lawrence Mark Sanger is an American internet project developer and co-founder of the internet encyclopedia Wikipedia, for which he coined the name and wrote much of its original governing policy. Sanger has worked on other online educational websites such as Nupedia, Citizendium, Everipedia, and the Encyclosphere.

Outline of Wikipedia Overview of and topical guide to Wikipedia

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Wikipedia:


  1. " WHOIS, DNS, & DomainTools". WHOIS . 2016. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  2. 1 2 3 Poe, Marshall (September 2006). "The Hive". The Atlantic . Retrieved January 1, 2007.
  3. 1 2 Sanger, Larry (April 18, 2005). "The Early History of Nupedia and Wikipedia: A Memoir". Slashdot. 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. Shun-Ling, Chen (May 5, 2010). "Self-governing online communities in Web 2.0: privacy, anonymity and accountability in Wikipedia" (PDF). Albany Law Journal. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  6. "When Wikipedia was young: the early years". VatorNews. 2017-06-13. Retrieved 2018-07-25.
  7. "Wikipedia founder forks Wikipedia" . Retrieved 2018-08-07.
  8. Lanxon, Nate (June 5, 2008). "The greatest defunct Web sites and dotcom disasters". CNET UK. p. 5.
  9. " WHOIS, DNS, & Domain Info - DomainTools". WHOIS . Retrieved 2016-07-06.
  10. 1 2 Gouthro, Liane (10 March 2000). "Building the world's biggest encyclopedia". PC World . Retrieved 19 January 2008.[ permanent dead link ]
  11. 1 2 Frauenfelder, Mark (November 21, 2000). "The next generation of online encyclopedias". The Industry Standard/CNN.
  12. jwales (January 17, 2001). "Re:GNUPedia = Nupedia?". GNUPedia Project Starting. Slashdot.
  13. Larry Sanger (January 10, 2001). "Let's make a wiki". Nupedia-l mailing list. Internet Archive. Archived from the original on April 14, 2003.
  14. Sanger, Larry. "My Resignation". Wikipedia-L. Bomis, Inc. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  15. "1 Nazis and Norms". Retrieved 2020-04-25.
  16. " 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.
  17. "How to be an editor or peer reviewer for Nupedia". Nupedia. Archived from the original on April 10, 2001. Retrieved June 3, 2010.
  18. Lih, Andrew (2009). The Wikipedia Revolution . New York: Hyperion. p.  37. ISBN   9781401303716.
  19. "NuNupedia". SourceForge. Retrieved 2017-02-16.

Further reading