Today, Wikipedia turns fourteen years old. On this day in 2001, a simple idea changed the world: the idea that anyone, no matter who they are or where they lived, had something to contribute to the sum of all human knowledge. It was a simple idea, but intensely powerful, and it resonated with hundreds of thousands of people. Together, your contributions have made Wikipedia the most comprehensive repository of free information in the history of humanity.

Desiderius Erasmus was a renowned humanist, scholar and theologian. Erasmus portrait by Hans Holbein, from Le Musée du Louvre and The Yorck Project. Public Domain.

Desiderius Erasmus was a renowned humanist, scholar and theologian.
Erasmus portrait by Hans Holbein, from Le Musée du Louvre and The Yorck Project. Public Domain.

Erasmus Prize 2015
I’m proud today to be able to share a remarkable recognition of your work. The Praemium Erasmianum Foundation (Dutch, English) in the Netherlands has announced that it will award the Erasmus Prize 2015 to Wikipedia and the Wikimedia community. The Erasmus Prize is one of Europe’s most distinguished recognitions, awarded annually to “a person or institution that has made an exceptional contribution to culture, society or social science.”

On behalf of the Wikimedia community, I thank the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation for this recognition.

This is the first time that this prestigious honor has been awarded to a group of individuals for their collective achievement. In the words of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation:

“Wikipedia receives the prize because it has promoted the dissemination of knowledge through a comprehensive and universally accessible encyclopaedia. To achieve that, the initiators of Wikipedia have designed a new and effective democratic platform. The prize specifically recognises Wikipedia as a community — a shared project that involves tens of thousands of volunteers around the world.”

This honor is accompanied by an award of €150,000. In keeping with the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation’s intent to recognize the contributions of the Wikimedia community, we are redirecting these funds towards the community in the form of individual grants and other support for editors and contributors.

Millions of reasons to celebrate
As Wikipedia turns fourteen today, we have millions of reasons to celebrate. The world’s free encyclopedia now includes more than 34 million articles across 288 languages, including Maithili Wikipedia. Maithili Wikipedia is the newest Wikipedia, representing an Indo-Aryan language spoken by more than 34 million people in Nepal and India. It is a testament to the global reach of a project that receives half a billion visitors every month, from nearly every country in the world.

In 2014, we saw other major milestones for the Wikimedia projects. Wikimedia Commons, the world’s largest resource of freely licensed educational media, celebrated its 10th anniversary and more than 22 million freely licensed images. Wikidata, the Wikimedia structured data project, was awarded Open Data Publisher of the year by the Open Data Institute for its high publishing standards and use of challenging data — and was recognized as a finalist for the Open Data Innovation award, for its use of open data as a tool for innovation.

All this is possible because of you: the more than 75,000 editors who edit more than five times a month, and the countless individuals who stop by to fix a sentence or update a fact. Every person who visits Wikipedia helps sustain and grow our mission and vision in their own way. As many as 6.5 million people have logged in and contributed to English Wikipedia alone over these past 14 years, with many millions more people contributing anonymously. We thank all of you.

If you have never made an edit before, today is a great day to begin! Contributing to the world’s largest free knowledge resource is a powerful recognition of all of the millions of people before you who shared their time and knowledge to build this amazing well of knowledge we use every day.

Lila Tretikov, Executive Director, Wikimedia Foundation