The Online Encyclopedia by Larry Sanger

Larry Sanger

"Availability is best achieved by making the resource both widespread and as inexpensive as possible."

- Larry Sanger

With an interest in philosophy from a young age, Larry Sanger spent his years excelling his classes and explored the understanding and sources of knowledge. Since Sanger became interested in the internet and its publishing abilities, he has been involved with various online encyclopedia projects. Sanger co-founded the Wikipedia and later became the founder of Citizendium.

Larry Sanger aims to bring a encyclopedia model and merge it with the capabilities of the internet, to make it accessible to anyone, anywhere and anytime with scholar level of credibility.

Early Life

Larry Sanger was born on July 16th, 1968 in Bellevue, Washington. Sanger and his family moved to Anchorage, Alaska, when he was seven years old. Sanger spent his years excelling his classes where he developed his interest in philosophical topics.

Sanger graduated from high school in 1986 and entered Reed College, majoring in philosophy. As a college student, he continued developing his interest in philosophy and explored the understanding and sources of knowledge. Sanger also became interested in the internet and its abilities. These interests helped him to realize the benefits of the internet and use a wiki for an online encyclopedia.

Sanger set up an early attempt with a listserver as a forum for discussion for students and tutors to meet up via the internet for education outside the traditional university setting. He started and moderated a philosophy discussion list.

In 1991, Sanger received his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Reed College, and in 1995, he received his Master of Arts from Ohio State University. He continued his studies and got a Doctor of Philosophy from Ohio State University in 2000.

From 1998 to 2000 he ran a website called "Sanger's Review of Y2K News Reports" as a resource for Y2K watchers. Sanger was married in 2001 and have two children.

Online Encyclopedias

In the year 2000, Larry Sanger was hired as editor-in-chief for Nupedia, a web-based encyclopedia licensed as a free content. Nupedia was co-founded by Jimmy Wales and funded by Bomis, Because Nupedia's articles were written by experts, Sanger was frustrated at its slow progress.

In January 2001, Sanger proposed a wiki be created to spur article development, and the result of this proposal was Wikipedia, which was officially launched on January 15, 2001.

Wikipedia was first intended as a collaborative wiki for the public to write entries that would then be fed into the Nupedia review process of expertise. Because the majority of the experts in Nupedia had little to no interest with the project, Sanger seperated the site and named it Wikipedia.

In a few days after its launch, Wikipedia outgrown Nupedia without even concluding the small community of editors gathered not long after its release. This surprised Sanger and Wales, With his position in Nupedia, Sanger named the project, and altered much of the original policy of Nupedia.

Sanger eventually left the project after being tired by the endless conflicts with the growing communities and the lack of support he had from Wales. Sanger was the only paid editor of Wikipedia from January 15, 2001, until March 1, 2002. Sanger worked on and promoted both the Nupedia and Wikipedia projects until Bomis discontinued funding for his position in February 2002 after the collapse in internet advertising spending.

Sanger resigned as the editor-in-chief of Nupedia and as chief organizer of Wikipedia on March 1 that year. Sanger's stated reason for ending his participation in Wikipedia and Nupedia as a volunteer was that he could not do justice to the task as a part-time volunteer. Nupedia ended in 2003, not long after Wikipedia's second anniversary.


After a few years Sanger left Wikipedia, Wales started to work as Sanger's role. Sanger posted on his personal web page several links which supported his role as a co-founder. The citations include the earlier versions of selected Wikipedia pages, press releases between 2002 and 2004, and early media coverage stories describing Wikipedia as founded by Wales and Sanger.

Sanger was identified as a co-founder of Wikipedia at least as early as September 2001.

Since 2002, Jimmy Wales identified himself as the co-founder of Wikipedia. After Wales first began his efforts to identify himself as the sole founder of Wikipedia by downplaying Sanger's early role. Sanger has stated that Wales was the one that had the idea of of an open source, collaborative encyclopedia, open to contribution by ordinary people.

He also said that Wales deserves enormous credit for investing in and guiding Wikipedia. Sanger on the other hand, was the one who had the idea to use the Wiki software.

Sanger did most of the early work and described himself as a co-founder, where on Wales thinks that he hired him in the first place.

According to the known documents dating from before 2005, the critical concept of combining the two of the three fundamental elements of Wikipedia, namely an encyclopedia and a wiki, first took form when Sanger met up with an old friend, Ben Kovitz on January 2, 2001, and it was here that Sanger was first introduced to the functionality of wiki software.

Kovitz was a computer programmer and a regular on Ward Cunningham's wiki. Sanger thought a wiki would be a good platform to use and decided to present the idea to Jimmy Wales, at that time the head of Bomis. Sanger initially proposed the wiki concept to Wales and suggested it be applied to Nupedia and, after some initial skepticism, Wales agreed.

Sanger formally proposed a "feeder" project for Nupedia titled "Nupedia Wiki" and created a new page on Ward's wiki named "WikiPedia."

It was Jimmy Wales who added the third critical combination. He directed Sanger to give essentially unrestricted editorial access to this new wiki to the "non expert" public. Sanger first conceived of the wiki-based encyclopedia project only as a means to hopefully accelerate Nupedia's slow growth.

During Wikipedia's critical first year of growth, Sanger guided and named the project. Sanger is also credited with creating and enforcing the policies and strategy that made Wikipedia possible during its first formative year.

Wikipedia was in fact an accidental spin-off of Nupedia. Originally it was only intended to act as a 'feeder site' to generate rough articles for Nupedia, where the articles would then theoretically be 'polished up' by the 'more qualified' volunteer editors.

After Wikipedia

Since Sanger left Wikipedia in 2002, he has been critical of its accuracy. In December 2004, Sanger wrote an article for in a website admitting that there had been a "poisonous social, political atmosphere in the project" as one of the reason he departed from Wikipedia. The article was a controversy in the blogosphere, and led to some reaction in the news media as well.

Sanger identifies the purpose of the internet as being equally about communication, as it is about information. Sanger pointed out his criticisms of Wikipedia aren't as much based on its lack of meritocracy, but rather in its credibility as an informational medium.

Sanger began his work as a lecturer at The Ohio State University, where he taught philosophy until June 2005. His professional interests are epistemology, ethics and early modern philosophy. In his spare time, he plays and teaches Irish traditional music in Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, and manages a site about the Donegal fiddle tradition.

In December 2005, Sanger was hired as Director of Distributed Programs by Digital Universe Foundation. He was the key organizer of the Digital Universe Encyclopedia web projects which was launched in early 2006.

In April 2006, Sanger published "Text and Collaboration: A personal manifesto for the Text Outline Project" arguing for the importance of what he called "strong collaboration". The question of accuracy over Wikipedia article content spurred Sanger to unveil plans for a new encyclopedia called Citizendium, the citizen's compendium.

At the Wizards of OS conference in September 2006, Sanger announced Citizendium as a fork of Wikipedia. The objectives of the fork were to address various perceived flaws in the Wikipedia system. The main differences would be no anonymous editing that would aspire to be a "real encyclopedia."


On March 25, 2007, Citizendium entered its live and publicly readable beta phase. The launch was on news medias titled "Citizendium aims to be better Wikipedia." Unlike Wales, who has compared his role in Wikipedia with that of a British monarch, Sanger said he would not head Citizendium indefinitely, and in 2007 announced his intention to step off the leadership team in two or three years.

Two weeks after the launch of Citizendium, Sanger criticized Wikipedia, stating the latter was broken beyond repair, and had a many problems from management problems, dysfunctional communities, unreliable content, and to a series of scandals.

Citizendium content is subject to "gentle expert oversight." Larry Sanger stated that by adopting a different system that Wikipedia's, Citizendium can be created as a more reliable and free encyclopedia.

Citizendium represents an effort to establish a credible online encyclopedia. Sanger aims to improve upon the wiki-based encyclopedia model by bringing more accountability and academic quality to articles. In an interview in 2007, Sanger explained his reasons to start another "Wikipedia" was because Wikipedia's lack of credibility.

Citizendium is wiki-based, and set apart from Wikipedia by several aspects.

After Citizendium

In early 2009, Sanger ceased to edit Citizendium, and officially confirmed it on July 30, 2009 on the Citizendium-l mailinglist. On September 22, 2010, Sanger stepped down as editor-in-chief of Citizendium but still willing to offer advice and continues to support its goals.

Sanger is working on developing educational projects for individuals behind WatchKnowLearn, originally named WatchKnow. He is producing a reading-tutorial application that will be applicable for beginning readers of all ages. He began blogging on various subjects, including baby reading.

Sanger is a writer, speaker, and a consultant on the topic of collaborative online communities.

In February 2013, Sanger announced Infobitt. On Twitter, he wrote: "My new project will show the world how to crowdsource high-quality content - a problem I've long wanted to solve. Not a wiki". Infobitt that aims to develop crowdsourced medium for news aggreggators, was first launched in December 2014.