The year 2004 was astonishing not only for the reasons indicated above by Jimmy Wales, but for other reasons, as well. This past year was, especially, one of evolution toward internationality.
2004 was characterized by a phenomenal growth rate of the projects in languages other than English. It was during this year that the number of encyclopedia articles in other languages exceeded those contained in the English Wikipedia. The installation of a multilingual portal at http://www.wikipedia.org, after two years of discussion, further reflects this change.
Many local communities are now linked by strong internal bonds and operate autonomously, rather than by copying the operations of the English community. Some have become a source of inspiration for other projects. The number of new initiatives that are born in local communities is striking -- publications in the form of a CD, the cross-project Merry Christmas initiative, Translation of the Week, and, most recently, the International Writing Contest. These projects are described in this publication in recognition of their initiatives.
The past year was also a period of meetings of Wikipedians, in person, in cities in many countries, in particular, in Europe and Asia: Paris, Berlin, Munich, Rotterdam, London, Taipei - to name a few. The existence of such active communities is living proof of the global development of our projects. However, communication between the various communities is still difficult, at times. This is not surprising, considering the diversity of the languages spoken by Wikipedians.
A publication such as the Wikimedia Quarto would have been in at most one or two languages, a year ago. It is now translated in many languages. Efforts were also made this year to increase interaction among communities, and to improving our meta-site, http://meta.wikimedia.org, which is open to all communities. Translation efforts have been begun to translate key pages on meta and other sites, and to take into account opinions from all projects.
The international aspect of our project is also visible in its administrative and legal aspects, through the creation of the Wikimedia Foundation to support the growth and the development of all our projects, and through the election of two members of the Board to represent Wikipedians - both female, as I never tire of saying, as is rare in administrative circles. 2004 also saw the creation of two local associations, one German and one French, and the preparation of other legal structures.
In short - three years ago, I joined a small English-language project, located at http://www.wikipedia.com, owned by an unknown American entrepreneur. It was a fabulous project, but it was centered entirely around English, which was frustrating. Today, we are sustained by a non-profit organization, and have evolved into a complex, worldwide, multilingual project.
In 2005, I wish for us to increase the number of participants in languages with smaller Wikipedias (such as Arabic), through external collaborations, if necessary. I also hope we will become a resource for readers in countries with little technological infrastructure, where there is no access to the Internet. The participation of editors from all cultures is necessary, too, to reach our objectives of neutrality and balanced perspective.
None of us reading this lacks access to information; to the contrary, we are drowning in the excess of information provided by television, radio, newspapers, the Internet, and so on. Our problem is, filtering information, and obtaining reliable information. However, the majority of humanity has no access to most of these information sources, and needs help. We must avoid widening the gap between those who have and those who do not have access to information!
Lastly, this is an unhoped-for opportunity for us to discover men and women of all countries, to balance our similarities and our differences, and to attempt to live with, tolerate, and appreciate these differences. In many countries, such differences are regulated with exploding grenades to keep certain groups silent. We have no choice but to find a consensus. We have only words, and must use them.
- --Anthere / Florence Devouard
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