Jimmy Wales, the walking encyclopedia

You just turned 20. And despite its youth, it needs touch-ups. Many. As many as 350 per minute. And is not for less. Eight thousand pairs of eyes scrutinize her every second. Of course, it has a large team of stylists. As many as 280,000 spread across the planet. And no, he is not a no Hollywood star. Neither one of those influencer that populates the networks. Although many of them would like to have their echo. But he is an internet celebrity. Of course I do.

They sure know her. But, just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, we’re talking about Wikipedia. That gigantic virtual encyclopedia that grows fat every day at breakneck speed. More than 7,000 articles feed Petete’s Fat Book every day. By the way, if they don’t have enough gray hair to know who this Petete was and what his work was about, they can, of course, consult it on Wikipedia.

The first page of this endless book – not a story – was written there on January 15, 2001 by Jimmy Wales, an Internet entrepreneur, owner of several web pages and born in Alabama; and Larry Sanger, a Seattle philosopher. Both defenders of free and accessible knowledge for all.

We will focus on the first, also known by the nickname of Jimbo Wale (Huntsville, Alabama; August 7, 1966). Mostly because Sanger is no longer on that ship. Things did not end well between the two friends. Nothing good. But that is another story: the son of a grocer and a teacher, he studied with his three brothers in the small private school that his grandmother and mother run in the small town in Alabama where they live, popularly known as Rocket City. for being one of the largest rocket production centers in the United States during the Cold War times.

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An inveterate reader from an early age, legend has it – Wikipedia says nothing about it – that the first encyclopedia he had in his life, a gift from his mother, ended up in his hands when he was barely three years old. I was fascinated with that treasure. Of course, at first he could only enjoy the drawings, maps and transparencies that truffled that almost magical book to his eyes. Later, little Jimmy would realize that not everything could be found there. Things were missing. So he managed to complete it. The most rudimentary system: stickers on which he wrote down the extra information he collected in other books that he eagerly attached to the pages of his beloved treasure. A hobby that would end up marking his destiny, at least professionally.

At the Wales home, studies were always the first thing. And he, when the time came, decided on finances. You are taking a BA in the subject from Auburn University. At that time he was addicted to role-playing games. That was how he became fond of the Internet, until it became almost an obsession. However, his first job was at an investment firm, specializing in options trading. And it was Netscape’s brilliant IPO that prompted him to drop everything and try his hand at the Web to earn a living.

His first business, Bomis, an erotic content portal with which he achieved some success. He was swept away by the dot-com bubble, he had to rise from the ashes. And he clung to that old childhood passion to soar. Why not create a virtual encyclopedia written by all the citizens of the world? And Wales has been at it for the last 20 years. With the invaluable help, yes, of the nearly 7 million donors around the world. They pay an average of $ 15 a year.

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