You can now own a remnant of the early days of Wikipedia.
Christie’s is auctioning Jimmy Wales’ first-ever edit — which read “Hello, World!” — as a non-fungible token. The strawberry-coloured Apple computer on which Wales helped found the online encyclopedia is also for sale. The auction, titled “The Birth of Wikipedia,” will take place from December 3 to December 15.
Jimmy Wales announced that he would sell a website containing a re-creation of an earlier edit that he said he made and then later deleted, which contained the text “Hello, World!”, to the highest bidder as a non-fungible token (NFT).
The concept of a collaboratively written, freely licensedhypertext encyclopedia was first posited in the 1990s; Richard Stallman proposed a “Free Universal Encyclopedia and Learning Resource” in 1998. In 2001, Wikipedia was initially conceived of by Larry Sanger as a source of volunteer entries from the general public that could then be “fed into” Nupedia, a collaborative encyclopedia founded by Jimmy Wales and written by “qualified volunteer contributors” with a multi-step peer review process. A message sent by Sanger to the Nupedia mailing list said “Humor me […] go there and add a little article.
Wikipedia: HomePage: re-creation of early edit”. Retrieved December 4, 2021.
” Jimmy Wales is auctioning off an NFT of his first Wikipedia edit”. Engadget.
“Exclusive: Why One Investor Bought an NFT of Wikipedia’s First Edit for $750K”. Blockworks.
So how did it all start? Wikipedia was in fact the second online encyclopaedia Wales tried to get off the ground. The first was Nupedia, a peer-reviewed site written by scholars and experts. But the entry-approval process took too long. ‘It was very, very academic and it failed because it wasn’t really any fun for volunteers — it was too rigid,’ says Wales.
Nupedia’s editor-in-chief and Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger then suggested using existing ‘wiki’ software created by programmer Ward Cunningham to make collaborating on web pages easier.
‘We were so close to giving up because progress was so slow that I decided to give it a go,’ Wales recalls. ‘Within two weeks we had as much work done as in almost two years.’
However, what made Wikipedia function was also what made it vulnerable, since anyone with an internet connection could edit the site.
It’s also a way to give people a window into the early days of Wikipedia. Once the auction is complete, the NFT will grant its new owner control of a single webpage. Just like Wikipedia as it exists today, anyone can edit that webpage to change what it says.
However, after five minutes, it will revert to its original state, with a single entry stating, “Hello, World!”
“What you see displayed is what Wikipedia looked like at the moment that I set up the software,” Wales said. “The artistic concept is to take people back to that moment when I set up the website and had to think, ‘Gosh, this is so vulnerable. Like anybody can edit.
In the early days of Usemod wiki, I did a lot of deleting things *on the hard drive* (as this was the only way to really do that). Those will never be found of course. The first words, soon deleted, were “Hello, World!”
Non-fungible token sale
On December 3, 2021, Wales announced that he would be selling, through auction house Christie’s, a non-fungible token (NFT) of a re-creation of what he claimed to be the first Wikipedia edit, made earlier than the “This is the new WikiPedia!” edit. Wales’ edit, whose timestamp was listed as 18:29 UTC on January 15, 2001, was on the page HomePage.
It’s free to join while encouraging members to pay for a subscription, akin to the patronage model of Wikipedia — a strategy aimed at removing the bad incentives that ad-supported services can create online.
Wales has an ambivalent overall relationship with blockchain technology. While the Wikimedia Foundation accepts donations in Bitcoin, he says the money raised through that “hasn’t been massive.” And he thinks many proposed applications of the tech to Wikipedia are misguided — like letting people pay editors for the “best” edits with cryptocurrency. “I’m like, yeah, that sounds like a great way to let Exxon control what the page says about Exxon,” says Wales.
It’s all very hard to enforce.”
Wales also draws parallels with the dot-com boom and bust of the late 1990s and early 2000s — a world where some companies failed because they were part of a hype-fueled bubble, while others simply launched with business models that weren’t yet technologically feasible. “We’re still very, very far from mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies,” Wales says, because of both its inconvenience and its damaging climate effects. He notes that Ethereum, while it’s currently extremely energy-intensive, is supposed to move to a more environmentally friendly and potentially more user-friendly system.
Wikipedia launched more than two decades ago on January 15, 2001, with Wales’ inaugural edit, “and even today, I’m still amazed at the size and breadth of what it has become,” he said in a statement.
The NFT shows the nascent layout of the site and will allow the eventual owner to make edits of their own to the page, which will revert to its original state with a timer, the press release said.
A portion of the sale’s proceeds will go toward Wales’ social media pilot called WT.Social, which aims to be a healthier alternative to current sites with its donation-only, advertising-free model.
NFTs are simply digital artworks tied to a blockchain, and crypto enthusiasts love them.
An NFT can either be one of a kind, like a real-life painting, or one copy of many, like trading cards, but the blockchain keeps track of who has ownership of the file.
NFTs have been making headlines lately, some selling for millions of dollars, with high-profile memes like Nyan Cat and the “deal with it” sunglasses being put up for auction. There’s also a lot of discussion about the massive electricity use and environmental impacts of NFTs. If you (understandably) still have questions, you can read through our NFT FAQ.
Wales’ WT.social platform is an experiment in paid social networking, but not in the style of systems like Friends With Benefits that restrict access with high-priced cryptocurrency tokens.
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- First Wikipedia edit NFT sells at Christies for $750K By Cointelegraph