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 until September 2003. It is mostly known now 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. 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 to volunteer content. Before it ceased operating, Nupedia produced 25 approved articles that had completed its review process (three articles also existed in two versions of different lengths), and 74 more articles were in progress. Jimmy Wales preferred Wikipedia's easier posting of articles, but Larry Sanger wanted to control content at Nupedia and founded Citizendium instead.
From its beginning, Nupedia was a free content encyclopedia, with Bomis intending to generate revenue from online ads on Nupedia.com. 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.
Also in January 2001, 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 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, and Sanger resigned from both projects soon thereafter. 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 nupedia.com was shut down on September 26, 2003. Nupedia's encyclopedic content, which was often described as limited, has since been assimilated into Wikipedia.
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