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.
Question: How do you respond to critics who say you make a profit without paying writers?
Jimmy Wales: Yeah, for me, that’s a bit of a strange sort of complaint. I think it’s a complaint that gets leveled at me more than other people, simply because I come from the Wikipedia non-profit world. If you are talking to the founders of YouTube or MySpace or something like this, Facebook, right? Well, clearly what, in a certain sense, everybody who’s providing some infrastructure, a place for people to do stuff, they’re profiting in a way from what people are doing on the web. And most people consider that to be perfectly normal. And it is perfectly normal. What I encourage people to think about is the ideas that a lot of what we’re doing is very similar to providing a facility of a bowling alley. In other words, we’re not making money from people bowling for free for us, right? What we’re doing is we’re providing a certain infrastructure, right? We provide the programming, we provide the servers, the hardware, management of the community, all those kinds of things. And the reason I choose bowling alley as an example is that bowling alleys, a big part of what they do when they’re successful is community oriented. They set up tournaments, they encourage different groups to join and compete, and all those kinds of things. It’s not just about people coming in and bowling, it’s about a whole social scene around the bowling alley. It’s the same kind of thing. So for me, it’s a sort of an odd thing to say. So I don’t worry about it too much.