Jimmy Wales is an American Internet entrepreneur known for his role in the creation of Wikipedia, a free, open-content encyclopedia launched in 2001. He serves on the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, holding the board-appointed "community founder" seat. In 2004, he co-founded Wikia, a privately owned, free Web-hosting service, along with Angela Beesley.
Together with Larry Sanger and others, Wales helped lay the foundation for Wikipedia, which subsequently enjoyed rapid growth and popularity. As Wikipedia expanded and its public profile grew, Wales took on the role of the project's spokesman and promoter through speaking engagements and media appearances. Wales has been historically cited as the co-founder of Wikipedia but he disputes the "co-" designation, asserting that he is the sole founder of Wikipedia. Wales' work developing Wikipedia, which has become the world's largest encyclopedia, prompted Time magazine to name him in its 2006 list of the world's most influential people.
Born in Huntsville, Alabama, Wales attended a small private school, then a university preparation school, eventually attaining a bachelor's degree and master's degree in finance. During his graduate studies he taught at two universities.
Topic: The First Amendment and the Internet
Jimmy Wales: I think we’re doing just fine. I’m not as pessimistic as some people. Sometimes when people look at levels of broadband penetration and things like that, where we don’t necessarily rank in the highest rank, I think that some of those comparisons are a little bit invalid. In other words, trying to figure out an economical way to get broadband Internet access throughout the entire United States – which is quite a large place with many remote places where people live – it’s very different from supplying broadband Internet access in South Korea, for example, or Finland. These are very small places by comparison, very concentrated populations.
I think that the biggest advantage that the U.S. has with the Internet is something that we should really be careful about, is it’s still the best jurisdiction in many ways for freedom of speech. The First Amendment is of enormous importance for the Internet. It’s kind of an interesting thing because in the past, the First Amendment rights for most ordinary people had very little actual impact. You had a secondary impact.
In other words, it’s important to me in 1970 that the press is free, and that books can be published because then I can consume all of those things. But as a person producing content to share with others, the First Amendment had very little impact on my day-to-day life.
Nowadays it does, right? We can all publish. We can all reach out. We can all have a voice. It’s really important that we have freedom of speech because that’s what generates this amazing bounty of great stuff. So today it’s really not a problem. The First Amendment is constantly under assault from here and there and yon. But for the most part it holds up reasonably well.
Recorded On: Aug 10, 2007