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Nupedia was a Web-based encyclopedia whose articles were written by experts 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 March 2000 until September 2003, and is mostly known now as the predecessor of Wikipedia. Nupedia was characterized by an extensive peer review process designed to make its articles of a quality comparable to professional encyclopedias. Nupedia wanted scholars to volunteer content for free. Before it ceased operating, Nupedia produced 24 articles that completed its review process (three articles also existed in two versions of different lengths), and 74 more articles were in progress.



Nupedia was always intended as a free content encyclopedia. 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 urgings of Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation. However, Stallman also started the GNUPedia project at the same time, which led to concerns about possible competition between the projects. One issue for GNUPedia participants was that in spite of Nupedia's use of a free content license, the extensive formal peer review ran counter to the culture and philosophy of the free software movement.

During this same time period, Nupedia started Wikipedia as a side project to allow collaboration on articles prior to entering the peer review process. This attracted interest from both sides, as it provided the less bureaucratic structure favored by GNUPedia advocates. As a result, GNUPedia 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 independent of Nupedia, although Sanger initially led activity on Wikipedia by virtue of his position as Nupedia editor-in-chief.

Besides aborting the GNUPedia project, Wikipedia also led to the gradual demise of Nupedia. Bomis decided to discontinue funding for a salaried editor-in-chief in February 2002, and Sanger resigned from both projects soon thereafter. After his 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 shut down on September 26, 2003, and Nupedia's limited content was assimilated into Wikipedia.

The editorial process

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

The bar to become a Nupedia contributor was relatively high, with the policy stating, "We wish editors to be true experts in their fields and (with few exceptions) possess Ph.D.s."

Software development

Nupedia was powered by NupeCode collaborative software. NupeCode is 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.

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

External links

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