The first words on Wikipedia were a nerdy programmer in-joke

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales can’t remember what the first article on Wikipedia was. An entry on the letter Q was an early one, Wales said onstage at SXSW.

He does remember the first words of Wikipedia, though.

“As a programming geek, I wrote ‘Hello World’ and those were the first words of Wikipedia,” Wales told the audience.

“Hello World” is often a way beginner programmers test their software, and has become an in-joke in the tech industry as the traditional way to test any new system.

At that point, Wales was moving away from Nupedia, his original project, and was testing the Wikipedia system, he explained.

Nupedia had had a seven-step article approval process and was intended to be better than an encyclopedia, but one of the first articles to get through had to be taken down for plagiarism.

Wales switched to the Wiki editor system and the number of articles soared.

“We got more work done in two weeks than we had done in two years,” Wales said.

It was when they switched to the wiki system, in which anyone can edit, that Wales tested out the system and typed out the classic test phrase “Hello World.” And the rest is history.

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