As much as we like to talk about how the internet is the world's greatest research tool, that's not quite true. Expecting someone to become even intermediately versed in a topic based on the first few links that Google farts out is like expecting the same after being smacked in the head with a dictionary -- there's immediacy, yes, but that means dick-all without order and curation. That's where Wikipedia comes in -- and only for the low, low price of one cup of coffee, as those damn fundraising banners keep reminding me.
Admittedly, it could cost us a lot less, but that'd require Jimmy Wales to go back to his days as a pornmonger. In 1996, Wales was a co-founder of Bomis, a search engine that catered exclusively to men. And not just any men, mind -- real men who love features on cars and sports and tits and, of course, more tits. It's hard to imagine how he and his friends were able to code the site without exploding like fizzy balloons of testosterone over the sheer manliness of it all, so I'm going to ignore that possibility and assume that Bomis was born from an accident involving a server rack and an issue of Maxim with all the pages stuck together. Whatever the method, the site became a major success and propelled the sex-doers of Silicon Valley into the internet stratosphere.
What drove 99 percent of that profit was porn. Through sections like "Bomis Babes," "Bomis Babe Report," "Babe Engine," and whatever other iterations of "Bomis" and "Babe" they could muster up before those words became redundant noises to the English language, they pulled in massive amounts of advertising revenue. And then there was "Bomis Premium," a members-only section of the site where, for the princely sum of $2.95 for three days' access, you could watch "top-notch models bare it all."
The dream couldn't last forever, though. Sensing a change in the way that people looked up information -- i.e. without having to clear their browser history after every visit -- Wales jumped ship and used the funds and experience that he'd gathered to start the precursor to Wikipedia: Nupedia, or as he probably originally wanted to call it, Factgina.
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