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First Mention: Wikipedia


We find ourselves in a world where new words and phrases pop up all the time. And to remind ourselves that they haven't been around forever, we occasionally dip into the NPR audio archives to pinpoint the moment we initially talked about a particular thing. It's our feature called...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: ...First mention.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This one is from January 17, 2003...


...A day like any other day. But on this day, a new, five-syllable word entered the lexicon for NPR listeners. Here's how it happened. Host Ira Flatow was interviewing free software advocate Bruce Perens. Listen here as Perens invites us to try something new.


BRUCE PERENS: I have a site I'd like people to go to. It's called - W-I-K-I-P-E-D-I-A dot org. What would you think if someone said, well, I'm going to write an encyclopedia with my friends in my spare time? That's what these people are doing, essentially, one individual, one article at a time. They have 80 or 90,000 encyclopedia articles that they're working on.

CORNISH: This first mention came almost two years to the day after Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger launched Wikipedia. The idea of a free online encyclopedia had been floating around for a while, and Wikipedia took off unlike anything else of its kind.

SIEGEL: Back in 2003, Bruce Perens knew people were just waiting for something like this to come along.


PERENS: Go to that site - - type in something, see what comes back. You can type in Flatow, for example, and read about Ira...

IRA FLATOW: I'm not responsible for what comes up.

PERENS: OK, well you'll get an article about NPR.

FLATOW: Well, we'll go to the break, and while we're at the break, a lot of people will be able to go to We'll melt down the server and see what happens.

CORNISH: And now Wikipedia is said to be the world's seventh-most-popular website.

SIEGEL: That is, according to Wikipedia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.