Upstart Open Content Encyclopedia Threatens to Displace Britannica, Encarta.
Remember when you used an encyclopedia to write school reports? Now check out what your kids will be using.
Nupedia.com ( http://www.nupedia.com ), an Open Content encyclopedia project started last February, is threatening to become the dominant encyclopedia reference of the 21st century, displacing ordinary proprietary encyclopedias in the same way that the open source operating system, Linux, is threatening to displace Windows. Nupedia's successful efforts at recruitment of volunteer editors and writers and at the design of a functioning editorial system are more illustrations of the success of the Open Source/Open Content movement. And another reason for Microsoft to fear that movement.
The online encyclopedia project boasts many dozens of volunteer Ph.D. subject editors and peer reviewers from six continents, who are rightly proud of its extremely rigorous, professional peer review system. The review process is now underway, several articles have been posted, and over 100 more have been assigned. The project's prospects look quite bright.
"Nupedia is one of the most felicitous brain-children of the Internet yet to appear," said project participant John T. Kirby, Professor of Classics and Chair of the program in Comparative Literature at Purdue University. "It has the potential not only to organize and facilitate scholarly research and the advancement of knowledge worldwide, but also to restructure the way we think about and use reference resources. It is a gigantic project -- a massive undertaking -- but I am hopeful that those charged with its oversight will see it through to fruition."
Dr. Lawrence M. Sanger, Nupedia's editor-in-chief and a philosopher specializing in epistemology, intends to do just that. "Articles that go through our review process can stand direct comparison with articles in the finest encyclopedias in history," Sanger said. "It is articles of this caliber that we are making available for free to an international public on an open content basis. That's why we think Britannica and Encarta have reason to be nervous."
The Open Content encyclopedia project was spearheaded and continues to be supported by Bomis, Inc. ( http://www.bomis.com ), an Internet portal company, with three employees working on the project full-time.
Sanger is an articulate and experienced interviewee. Interviewers might wish to ask him for details about Nupedia's planned move from a mailing list-based peer review system to a web-based system (this will expedite production), the current number of Nupedia members, and the details of the peer review process. Sanger may be reached by telephone at (619) 296-1732 or (858) 274-9289 and by e-mail at email@example.com.