This has been a very exciting year for Wikimedia, and much more is coming next year!
It seems as though it was years ago when we were almost completely offline for three days, because we had only three servers and two of them crashed with motherboard and hard drive problems. But, this was just last year at this time. Today, we have 40 servers and more on the way.
In this year, we have gone from a site half-afraid of being featured on the computer news site Slashdot because we weren't able to cope well with the traffic, to being a site that hardly notices when we are 'Slashdotted'.
But our growth has not slowed, and may even be accelerating. We've done something that is unprecedented, and is widely inspiring people about the first dreams of what the Internet could be: people sharing knowledge, giving it away for free, working together to create the tools that people need to make this a better world.
No one can say exactly what the new year will hold for us, but some of the developers are suggesting that if we continue on our current growth course, we will be a top-100 or top-50 site by the end of this year, and we will need hundreds of servers. This growth would be exciting for anyone, but for us it is particularly exciting because of how we have done it: in a way that no one would have ever imagined possible... hundreds of volunteers collaborating in a loose and vaguely anarchistic fashion to do something we really believe in.
How will we handle this growth? In the same way that we have handled things in the past: through careful, thoughtful deliberation in which we look to find the best ideas from whatever source. We need to identify areas in which we need the most help, and actively seek that help.
For example, demands on developer time are becoming substantial, and so we need to recruit and retain new developers. This can be harder than recruiting new authors, because new developers have to learn a lot more before they reach maximum productivity. For another example, we know that there are systemic biases in Wikipedia, and so we need to think about how to reach out to authors who are interested in different topics than our existing community members are.
I ask everyone to make a resolution for the New Year to think about how to handle this growth and, especially, how we can reach out to find the help that we need. If every active volunteer can go out and find one person who could bring something new to our community, we would have a great increase in our ability to grow while maintaining and improving.
The year 2004 was astonishing not only for the reasons indicated above by Jimmy Wales, but for other reasons, as well. This past year was, especially, one of evolution toward internationality.
2004 was characterized by a phenomenal growth rate of the projects in languages other than English. It was during this year that the number of encyclopedia articles in other languages exceeded those contained in the English Wikipedia. The installation of a multilingual portal at http://www.wikipedia.org, after two years of discussion, further reflects this change.
Many local communities are now linked by strong internal bonds and operate autonomously, rather than by copying the operations of the English community. Some have become a source of inspiration for other projects. The number of new initiatives that are born in local communities is striking -- publications in the form of a CD, the cross-project Merry Christmas initiative, Translation of the Week, and, most recently, the International Writing Contest. These projects are described in this publication in recognition of their initiatives.
The past year was also a period of meetings of Wikipedians, in person, in cities in many countries, in particular, in Europe and Asia: Paris, Berlin, Munich, Rotterdam, London, Taipei - to name a few. The existence of such active communities is living proof of the global development of our projects. However, communication between the various communities is still difficult, at times. This is not surprising, considering the diversity of the languages spoken by Wikipedians.
A publication such as the Wikimedia Quarto would have been in at most one or two languages, a year ago. It is now translated in many languages. Efforts were also made this year to increase interaction among communities, and to improving our meta-site, http://meta.wikimedia.org, which is open to all communities. Translation efforts have been begun to translate key pages on meta and other sites, and to take into account opinions from all projects.
The international aspect of our project is also visible in its administrative and legal aspects, through the creation of the Wikimedia Foundation to support the growth and the development of all our projects, and through the election of two members of the Board to represent Wikipedians - both female, as I never tire of saying, as is rare in administrative circles. 2004 also saw the creation of two local associations, one German and one French, and the preparation of other legal structures.
In short - three years ago, I joined a small English-language project, located at http://www.wikipedia.com, owned by an unknown American entrepreneur. It was a fabulous project, but it was centered entirely around English, which was frustrating. Today, we are sustained by a non-profit organization, and have evolved into a complex, worldwide, multilingual project.
In 2005, I wish for us to increase the number of participants in languages with smaller Wikipedias (such as Arabic), through external collaborations, if necessary. I also hope we will become a resource for readers in countries with little technological infrastructure, where there is no access to the Internet. The participation of editors from all cultures is necessary, too, to reach our objectives of neutrality and balanced perspective.
None of us reading this lacks access to information; to the contrary, we are drowning in the excess of information provided by television, radio, newspapers, the Internet, and so on. Our problem is, filtering information, and obtaining reliable information. However, the majority of humanity has no access to most of these information sources, and needs help. We must avoid widening the gap between those who have and those who do not have access to information!
Lastly, this is an unhoped-for opportunity for us to discover men and women of all countries, to balance our similarities and our differences, and to attempt to live with, tolerate, and appreciate these differences. In many countries, such differences are regulated with exploding grenades to keep certain groups silent. We have no choice but to find a consensus. We have only words, and must use them.
- --Anthere / Florence Devouard
If you have questions or comments, we would love to hear from you. You can reach us on our talk pages (see ), or by email to: board (at) wikimedia.org.