Jimmy Wales

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Computing People

Jimmy Donal "Jimbo" Wales

Jimmy Wales (August 2006)
Born: August 7, 1966
Huntsville, Alabama, USA
Occupation: President of Wikia, Inc.; Board member and Chairman Emeritus of the Wikimedia Foundation
Spouse: Christine
Children: 1
Website: User page on Wikipedia

Jimmy Donal "Jimbo" Wales (born August 7, 1966 in Huntsville, Alabama) is the co-founder, board member and Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit corporation that operates the Wikipedia project, and several other wiki projects, including Wiktionary and Wikinews. He is also the co-founder, along with Angela Beesley, of the for-profit company Wikia, Inc.

Personal life

Wales' father worked as a grocery store manager while his mother, Doris, and his grandmother, Erma, ran a small private school "in the tradition of the one-room schoolhouse" where Wales received his education. Most of the time there were four children in his grade so the school grouped the first, second, third and fourth grade students and the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students.

Currently, Wales works and lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.


After eighth grade, Wales attended Randolph School, a university-preparatory school, which was an early supporter of computer labs and other technology for student use. Wales has said that the school was expensive for his family, but that education was regarded as important. "Education was always a passion in my household … you know, the very traditional approach to knowledge and learning and establishing that as a base for a good life." He received his Bachelor's degree in finance from Auburn University and started with the Ph.D. finance program at the University of Alabama, where he left with a Master's in finance. After that, he took courses offered in the Ph.D. finance program at Indiana University. He taught at both universities during his postgraduate studies, but did not write the doctoral dissertation required to earn a Ph.D.


Jimmy Wales speaking at FOSDEM 2005
Jimmy Wales speaking at FOSDEM 2005

From 1994-2000, Wales served as research director at Chicago Options Associates, a futures and options trader in Chicago. By "betting on interest rate and foreign-currency fluctuations" he had soon earned enough to "support himself and his wife for the rest of their lives", according to Daniel Pink of Wired Magazine.

Bomis and Nupedia

In 1996, Wales founded a search portal called Bomis, which also sold erotic materials until mid-2005. He was asked in a September 2005 C-SPAN interview about his previous involvement with what the interviewer, Brian Lamb, called "dirty pictures." In response, Wales described Bomis as a "guy-oriented search engine", with a market similar to Maxim magazine. In an interview with Wired News, he also explained that he disputed the categorization of Bomis content as "soft-core pornography": "If R-rated movies are porn, it was porn. In other words, no, it was not." Wales is no longer actively involved in the company.

In March 2000, he started a peer-reviewed, open-content encyclopedia, Nupedia.com ("the free encyclopedia"), and hired Larry Sanger to be its editor-in-chief.


Jimmy Wales (far left) at a session on Open Source, Open Access, at the Owning the Future conference held in New Delhi, India,  August 24, 2006
Jimmy Wales (far left) at a session on Open Source, Open Access, at the Owning the Future conference held in New Delhi, India, August 24, 2006

Using a wiki to create an encyclopedia was publicly proposed by Larry Sanger on January 10, 2001, and Wales worked on setting one up, starting it on January 15, 2001. Wikipedia was at that point a wiki-based site intended for collaboration on early encyclopedic content for submission to Nupedia for peer review, but Wikipedia's rapid growth soon made it the dominant project and Nupedia was mothballed. Sanger resigned from the project in 2002.

Jimmy Wales on the Holbeinsteg bridge in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, during a shooting break of a documentary film on Wikipedia created by French-German TV station arte
Jimmy Wales on the Holbeinsteg bridge in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, during a shooting break of a documentary film on Wikipedia created by French-German TV station arte

In mid-2003, Wales set up the Wikimedia Foundation, a St. Petersburg-based non-profit organization, to support Wikipedia and its younger sibling projects. He appointed himself and two business partners who are not active Wikipedians to the five-member board; the remaining two members are elected community representatives.

According to Daniel H. Pink from Wired magazine, by 2004, Wales had spent around US$500,000 on the establishment and operation of his Wiki projects, most of it his own funds. By the end of its February 2005 fund drive, the Wikimedia Foundation was supported entirely by grants and donations. Wales has become increasingly involved with promoting and speaking about its projects, and to this end, he travels to conferences and Wikimedia functions, such as "Wikimeets" and Wikimania.

Wales has explained his motivations about Wikipedia. In an interview with Slashdot, he said, "Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing."

In late 2005, Wales was criticised for editing his own biography in a way some characterized as "revisionist history." In particular, Rogers Cadenhead drew attention to logs showing that Mr. Wales had removed references to Sanger as the co-founder of Wikipedia. He was also observed to have modified references to Bomis in a way that was characterized as downplaying the sexual nature of some of his former company's products.

In both cases, Wales argued that his modifications were solely intended to improve the accuracy of the content. Wales explained that Sanger had been his employee, and that he had always considered himself to be the sole founder of Wikipedia. In 2006, Wales told the Boston Globe that "it's preposterous" to call Sanger the co-founder. However, Sanger strongly contests that description. He was identified as a co-founder of Wikipedia at least as early as September 2001 and referred to himself that way as early as January 2002.

Following this incident, Wales apologized for editing his own biography (a practice generally frowned on at Wikipedia). Wales said in the Wired interview, "People shouldn't do it, including me. I wish I hadn't done it." However, he continues to assert that he is the sole founder of Wikipedia.


Wikia (formerly known as Wikicities) is a wiki hosting service created in October 2004 by Jimmy Wales and Angela Beesley, according to a Wikia press release. It is a collection of wikis running on MediaWiki software and operated by Wikia, Inc. that target different communities. It is free of charge for readers and editors, and gets its income from advertisements. Following the change in name, Wikia announced that it had received US$4 million in venture capital from a group of investors. "'We've had a lot of interest from investors, and it was really a matter of sorting through the investors to be sure that people who are investing were people who were believers in our mission,' said Wales, who operates Wikipedia and Wikia separately from his St. Petersburg offices" reports the Tampa Bay Business Journal.


Wales being interviewed on the red carpet of the 2006 Time 100, by Rocketboom, a daily Internet vidcast
Wales being interviewed on the red carpet of the 2006 Time 100, by Rocketboom, a daily Internet vidcast

He was appointed a fellow of the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School in 2005. On October 3, 2005, according to a press release, Wales joined the Board of Directors of Socialtext, a provider of wiki technology to businesses. In 2006, he joined the Board of Directors of the non-profit organization Creative Commons.

Wales received an honorary degree from Knox College on June 3, 2006. The Electronic Frontier Foundation awarded him a Pioneer Award on May 3, 2006.

Wales was the first person listed in the "Scientists & Thinkers" section of the May 8, 2006 special edition of Time ("The lives and ideas of the world's most influential people"), listing 100 influential people.


  • Wales appeared in the "Not My Job" segment of the November 4, 2006, episode of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, a weekly news-quiz show on National Public Radio. The topic was "It must be True, I read it on Wikipedia". He got none of the three questions right.

Published works by Wales

  • Robert Brooks, Jon Corson, and J. Donal Wales. "The Pricing of Index Options When the Underlying Assets All Follow a Lognormal Diffusion", in Advances in Futures and Options Research, volume 7, 1994. See also Log-normal distribution.

Retrieved from " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Wales"