Wikipedia's Growth Story

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Case Details:

Case Code : BSTR272
Case Length : 13 pages
Period : 2001-07
Pub Date : 2008
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : Wikipedia
Themes: Business Models | Growth Factors and Challenges
Industry : Internet and e-Commerce
Countries : US

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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"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."1

- Jimmy Wales, Founder, Wikipedia, in July 2004.

"I only use Wikipedia for things I know cold, looking for a terse description to share with my daughter doing homework so I don't have to write it myself. But if I don't know the subject, I would never consider Wikipedia as a source of information. The biggest issue is that Wikipedia provides no information on who posted the story, the writer's credentials or the motives behind changes."2

- Eric Clemons, Professor of Operations and Information Management, Wharton University, in January 2006.


On September 09, 2007, Wikipedia, the US-based online encyclopedia, posted its two millionth article in its English edition. By then, Wikipedia had published more than 8 million articles3 in around 253 different languages4. Wikipedia hosted a total of 1.41 billion words with more than 609 million words in the English edition alone5.

Built on the model of free content 6, Wikipedia came into being on January 15, 2001. The website was a wiki7, to which anyone could contribute content and which anyone could edit. Hence, the name Wikipedia - a combination of Wiki and Encyclopedia.

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Wikipedia was a result of an experiment to collect information for another project called Nupedia8.

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1] "Wikipedia Founder, Jimmy Wales Responds,", July 28, 2004.

2] "Can Wikipedia Survive Its Own Success?" Knowledge@Wharton, January 25, 2006.

3] An 'article' on Wikipedia is a page containing an encyclopedia entry. Wikipedia does not stipulate the minimum number of words for the write-up to qualify as an article on the website. An article is different from a 'page' which includes all the material on Wikipedia, including encyclopedia pages, talk pages, documentation, and other special pages like rules, guidelines, etc.

4] Each language has a separate domain name. For example, the English version is

5] "About Wikipedia,"

6] Free content is a kind of work which includes technical writing or art work having very little (or nil) legal restriction regarding freedom to use, redistribute, or modify the content.

7] Wiki is a software using which one can create, and edit web page content. Wiki is generally used to create collaborative websites.

8] Nupedia was an encyclopedia to which experts contributed content.


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