Wiki History

This began on March 25, 1995. A little later (May 1, 1995), an InvitationToThePatternsList caused an increase in participation. Growth has continued since then, to the point where the average number of new pages ranges between 5 and 12 per day.

WardsWikiTenthAnniversary occurred on March 25, 2005. At that time, we had about 30690 pages.

This is the first ever wiki site, founded as an automated supplement to the PortlandPatternRepository. The site was immediately popular within the pattern community, largely due to the newness of the Internet and a good slate of InvitedAuthors. The site was, and remains, dedicated to PeopleProjectsAndPatterns.

I created the site and the WikiWikiWeb machinery that operates it. I chose wiki-wiki as an alliterative substitute for quick and thereby avoided naming this stuff quick-web. Read more about etymology here: An early page, WikiWikiHyperCard, traces wiki ideas back to a HyperCard stack I wrote in the late 80's. This same stack, by the way, spawned CrcCards. I've reconstructed the WikiDesignPrinciples I applied at the time. Read more on the name here:

PatrickMueller wrote probably the first WikiWikiClone, choosing the RexxLanguage as a convenient vehicle for a night's work. I soon wrote a version of wiki that could host its own source code and announced WikiWikiGoesPublic. Rather than fold changes back into my editable version, implementers chose to distribute their modifications on their own sites and boast of the many features they had added, accepting raw HTML being the most common one.

It has been claimed by some that the ideas that led to the Wiki concept have their origins (see: WikiWikiOrigin) in the ZOG database system effort, first materialized at Carnegie-Mellon University in 1972.

Landmark changes to the Wiki script - approximate dates; please put correct dates if you know them.

Ok. But when does RecentChanges function appear?

The RecentChanges page leads to a meandering discourse dubbed ThingsOnWikisMind. Those who follow submissions closely are dubbed RecentChangesJunkies. Even without this effect, this site has been known as a definitive site for information on varying subjects (again, approximate dates)...

Things this site has been known as a definitive site for

From the beginning, wiki was intended to index itself. Or, more correctly, wiki visitors were supposed to evolve into VolunteerHousekeepers?. This is one reason that RecentChanges has never automatically pruned itself. A variety of indexing innovations have been introduced and maintained by the community.

Innovations introduced and maintained by the community

I occasionally suggest how this site should be used. My GoodStyle suggestions have been here since the beginning and are linked from the edit page should anyone forget. I have done my best to discourage dialog InFavorOfDissertation which offers a better fit to this medium. I've been overruled. I will continue to make small edits to pages for the sake of brevity. -- WardCunningham

I recently stumbled across this early description of the server with hit statistics for the first three years of operation.


2000 wiki itself

The WikiMindWipe, followed by the careful deletions of the "WikiReductionists" for one morning in Europe (the time lag with the West Coast being very relevant to the ensuing hyper-muddle), created significant controversy which divided several veteran wiki authors; the disputes have not been fully resolved, but have led to a widespread disgust of WikiOnWiki topics.

As someone who willingly identified with the WikiReductionists and indeed coined the phrase, although I made no deletions on the day itself, I would strongly argue that the controversy, the division, and the disgust were caused mainly by following what KarlPopper would call EnemiesOfWikiOpenSociety, people operating through a combination of UnethicalEditing, anonymity and PseudonymityWithUntraceability. As far as the enemies were concerned these effects were quite deliberate. Especially the division. -- RichardDrake

Sam's posts on Microsoft technology revealed a depth of knowledge on the topic. But the responses by others revealed a pervasive AntiMicrosoftBiasOnWiki of some of the most active posters at the time. Over the course of two days (if I remember correctly), he followed the reverse link from his HomePage and deleted all signed content he had ever contributed to this Wiki. This upset a number of people. ( say the least! ;-) The following Saturday, I spent pretty much the whole day doing WikiMindWipeRepair: On every page he had changed, I fixed the text so that the surrounding discussion would still make sense. On some pages, I agreed with his previous comments so strongly that I put my own comments in their place, in my own words, signed with my name, making it look like people were arguing with me, rather than Sam. And I restored most of the objective technical content through, sans his signature, because he had made some really valuable contributions to the factual content of this site. -- JeffGrigg

Page Hits

In 1995, I started keeping wiki pages in a directory that let them show up in the disk-usage (du) statistics that I collected about once a year. This table shows when I made the record and the number of 1k blocks consumed by wiki pages on that date.

 Nov 29 1994: - 
 Dec 15 1995: 2426 
 Dec 1 1996: 5134 
 Dec 31 1997: 10600 
 Mar 25 1998: 14554 
 Dec 2 2000: 62919 
I have compressed logs around somewhere but can't put my fingers on them. I have located some early mail that indicates wiki went public in 3/95.

Here is a graph I made when I still counted page hits.

1998: ExtremeProgramming

Proponents of ExtremeProgramming showed up on the PortlandPatternRepository site and started talking about ExtremeProgramming, what it is, and how to do it. XP advocates seemed to be talking about XP at every possible opportunity and seemingly on every page with content the least bit related to software development. This annoyed a number people who were here to discuss patterns, leading to the tag XpFreeZone, as a request not to talk about ExtremeProgramming on that page.

It was difficult to pick out the DesignPatterns discussion on RecentChanges, because most of the activity was related to ExtremeProgramming. Eventually, most of the DesignPatterns people left, to discuss patterns in a "quieter" environment, and people started referring to this site as WardsWiki instead of the PortlandPatternRepository.

This was also the start of a discussion (argument? ;-) between RonJeffries and myself that lasted several years, and eventually convinced me to try ExtremeProgramming practices, and eventually grow to support the whole goofy idea. ;-> -- JeffGrigg

1999: ChangeSummary (discontinued, but led to QuickChanges)

What's a RecentChangesJunkie to do? There are many changes, so it's hard to tell which ones are "worth reading". Was a change just a minor adjustment of spelling, punctuation, or correction of web links? Or was it the addition of some interesting new content?

Some good souls started taking RecentChanges, annotating each line with a brief description of what had changed on the page, and posting this to the ChangeSummary page. Good idea, but remarkably time-consuming. It didn't take long for this practice to peter out, because it was simply too much work. This Wiki added the "MinorEdit/RecentEdits" feature to reduce the RecentChanges clutter. Other Wiki sites have a feature where the poster, can enter a line of descriptive text when saving changes to a page, which puts "ChangeSummary" data right on their "RecentChanges" pages. -- JeffGrigg

("MinorEdit/RecentEdits" feature removed in October of 2004, due to edit wars and spamming issues. See MinorEditsDisabledDiscussion.)

2004-2005: Thread Drift

Proponents of ChatterForTheSakeOfChatter? showed up on WardsWiki and started talking about themselves, what wiki is, and commenting on every page in order to leave their signature. These newcomers got in lots of verbose arguments and EditWars with the regulars, and with each other. This annoyed a number programmers and XP advocates who were here to discuss programming.

It was difficult to pick out the Programming and XP discussion on RecentChanges, because most of the activity was related to ChatterForTheSakeOfChatter?. Eventually, most of the programmers left, to discuss programming in a "quieter" environment.

To set the record straight: major XP advocates drifted away long before the 2004-2005 season. And the kind of problems that happened in 2004-2005 have been with wiki before, arguably at a lower intensity but with similar effects. Wiki seems to repeat its history.

(See: MissingWikiBeforeXp.)


Wiki Dark Ages

Out of curiosity, I tried the WikiArchive to check revisions of common C2 pages (e.g., FrontPage), and found in most instances there are no history files between 1997 and 2001. But I did find KentBeck had a revision in 2000.

Was the site name changed in those years? And what is the name if it was located on different server? -- dl

The wiki script has several aliases (the cgi-bin form was mandatory for several years, the www has always been optional.):

Do we know what the first ever wiki page was? Is there any way to tell at this point? Does it still exist?

The original script retrieved FrontPage by default (same as it currently retrieves WelcomeVisitors). Likely FrontPage was the first wiki page. I don't know how I could tell for sure without finding those old logs. -- WardCunningham

Some of the most popular websites and open source projects use the wiki system.

Yes, some of the biggest and most important sites and open source project do use wiki. Such websites are:

What Wiki does is to open the Web to those who might not contribute elsewhere. Everyone knows that control / editing is often minimal or non-existent, so hopefully it will engender a more critical faculty in web users who, especially the less sophisticated or less skeptical, often seem to accept all that they read online as being true in all aspects. Vive le cynisme; vive le Wiki. -- David M

When did wikis introduce the true groups function and start tracking the movement of a user through different articles (keep knowledge of the user inserting/editing)?

A present part of WikiHistory is that RecentVisitors has become difficult to maintain as it keeps getting deleted. Here is a CopyOfRecentVisitors to help keep it available. The version history is such a mess it is difficult to see whether it is the correct version. This is (or was when I created it) version 10253 from the archive. -- JohnFletcher

So GrammarVandal has had one of his delete-trantrums again... I don't know why he/she/it bothers. *sigh*

Is there any more recent data of innovations or the number of users?

I do not know of anyone keeping track of visitors. I have been maintaining the pages of ChangesInMonth for a number of years now and always record the number of pages at the end of each month. I keep a note of the numbers on a spreadsheet. I have done some calculations on that and it gives a growth in pages running at a current annual rate of about 600, or about 1.7% (end of 2013). Some of that is the admin pages I create to monitor each month, say about 25 per year in total. The trend of this is upward from a low point of about half those figures at the end of 2011. In terms of what is actually going on, there are a small number of active discussions which can be located either from RecentChanges or by looking on ImplicitTopics and going to one of the month pages, which will give a list of the topics active in that month. -- JohnFletcher
CategoryComputingHistory CategoryWikiHistory CategoryWikiReflection

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