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: What inspires you?
Jimmy Wales: What inspires me? Well what inspires me is that we have this amazing tool now that’s very quickly penetrating every place in the world where you can have point-to-point communication between individuals all over.
It’s possible in limited ways to censor the Internet, but I’m very much an optimist about that. I don’t think the censorship can very much succeed in the long run.
So the idea that we can have a real dialogue between people – not between governments or just between sort of important pundits, but ordinary people can talk about things in many different parts of the world – I think that’s really fascinating. It’s going to have some major and positive implications for peace in the long run.
It’s no simple and easy process. It’s not like you just sort of turn on the Internet and all of a sudden everybody just has a reasonable conversation instead of going to war. It’s more subtle and complex than that; but I think it does begin to make it possible to see people as human beings rather than “the other”, and I think that’s going to be huge in the long run.
Recorded On: Aug 10, 2007