Type of site
Internet encyclopedia project
Available in English
Created by Larry Sanger
Slogan(s) An encyclopedia project—and more!
Alexa rank 286,796 (October 2014)[1]
Commercial No
Registration Optional (required to edit pages)
Launched October 23, 2006 (2006-10-23) (pilot)
March 25, 2007 (2007-03-25) (public)
Current status Largely inactive[2][3]
Content license
CC BY-SA 3.0
Larry Sanger, founder and former editor-in-chief of Citizendium

Citizendium (/ˌsɪtˈzɛndiəm/ SIT-i-ZEN-dee-əm; "the citizens' compendium of everything")[4] is an English-language wiki-based free encyclopedia project launched by Larry Sanger, who had previously co-founded Wikipedia in 2001.[5][6]

It was first announced in September 2006 as a fork of the English Wikipedia,[7] but that idea was abandoned prior to its March 2007 public launch in favor of emphasizing original articles. The project aims to improve on the Wikipedia model by providing increased reliability.[8] It hopes to achieve this by requiring virtually all contributors to use their real names, by strictly moderating the project for unprofessional behavior, by providing what it calls "gentle expert oversight" of everyday contributors, and also through its "approved articles". Approved articles have undergone a form of peer-review by topic experts with credentials, and are closed to real-time editing.[9][10]

By 27 October 2011, the site had fewer than 100 active members.[2] As of August 2013, it had 16,484 articles, of which 165 had achieved editorial approval, and around 10 contributors making at least 20 edits a month.[3] The managing editor was Anthony Sebastian, until the office was vacated in 2016.[11]

Founder viewpoints

Sanger said in a 17 October 2006 press release that Citizendium "will soon attempt to unseat Wikipedia as the go-to destination for general information online".[12] In August 2007, he captioned its pages: "The world needs a more credible free encyclopedia."[13] The project began its pilot phase in October and November 2006.

On 18 January 2007, a change of plans was announced. Sanger announced on the CZ mailing list that only articles marked "CZ Live", those which have been or will soon be worked on by Citizendium contributors, would remain on the site, and all other articles forked from Wikipedia would be deleted. Not all Citizendium contributors were supportive of this change, but Sanger emphasized that this deletion was "an experiment" and a new set of Wikipedia articles could be uploaded if the experiment were deemed unsuccessful.[14]

Planning for succession of editor-in-chief

In May 2009, Sanger reduced his direct activity at Citizendium, and, in a message on 30 July 2009, he reminded those on the Citizendium-l mailing list of his previously declared intention not to serve as editor-in-chief for more than two or three years after the start of the project.[15] Sanger has reiterated his call for the Citizendium community to prepare an orderly process for choosing a new editor-in-chief. Sanger said that he was spending more time on his WatchKnow project,[16] partly because he needs to earn an income—he said the "Citizendium project doesn't earn me a dime"—and partly because the Citizendium community had demonstrated that it could function effectively without his close, daily involvement, and because "there are squeakier wheels in my life just now". He added that stepping aside may "precipitate something of a constitutional crisis, considering that we [Citizendium] never adopted a proper charter". Citizendium finally ratified its charter in September 2010.[17] On 22 September 2010, Sanger stepped down as editor-in-chief[18] and subsequently gave up editorial powers and rights to the project. Sanger did not appoint a successor or interim editor-in-chief, and the project's financial position did not become clear until after his departure.[19]

Nature of the project

Fork of Wikipedia

According to statements and essays on Citizendium,[20][21][22] the project was initially intended to begin as a fork of Wikipedia, carrying a copy of each article—under the rules of the GNU Free Documentation License—as it existed on Wikipedia at the time of Citizendium's launch.[23] However, after initiating the idea of not forking, and then soliciting comments on the matter from Citizendium mailing list and web forum members, Sanger said that a complete fork at launch was not a "foregone conclusion".[24] On 18 January 2007, Sanger announced that the pilot would, as an experiment, only carry articles that had been, or would soon be, worked on by Citizendium contributors, instead of a complete set of Wikipedia articles. He stated that the experiment "represents a reconception of our project's basic aim".[14]

No announcement has yet been made on Citizendium editions in languages other than English, but Sanger has stated in his essays that they may be forthcoming after the English-language version is established and successfully working. In a review of Andrew Keen's book The Cult of the Amateur, Sanger comments ironically on Keen's favorable treatment of Citizendium: "The first example of a 'solution' he offers is the Citizendium, or the Citizens' Compendium, which I like to describe briefly as Wikipedia with editors and real names. But how can Citizendium be a solution to the problems he raises, if it has experts working without pay, and the result is free? If it succeeds, won't it contribute to the decline of reference publishing?"[25]

Project goal

The stated aim of the project is to create a "new compendium of knowledge" based on the contributions of "intellectuals", defined as "educated, thinking people who read about science or ideas regularly".[26] Citizendium aimed to foster an expert culture and a community that encourages participants (to be called "authors") to "respect" the expert contributions (by what he referred to as a "gentle process of guidance").

Experts are required to verify their qualifications openly, for transparency and publicly accepted authority.[27] This contrasts with the open and largely anonymous nature of Wikipedia,[28] where subject specialists have neither any verifiable special knowledge of their subject nor agreed special status. Sanger stated that editors would not have pre-approval rights over edits by ordinary authors, though editors would have somewhat undefined authority over articles that fall within their specific area of expertise.

Policies and structure

Unlike Wikipedia, Citizendium does not allow anonymous editing. Participants must register under their real names with a working email address. Sanger decided that Citizendium administrators would be called "constables", and need a bachelor's degree to qualify. He also instituted a minimum "maturity" requirement—25 years of age—for constables.[27] The "head" constable is the Chief Constable (D. Matt Innis), and the head editor is the Managing Editor.[29]

Originally, Sanger operated as Editor-in-Chief, the "main individual in charge", part of and answerable to a Board of Directors. Sanger stated that final decisions about management structure will not be made "until more of the (future) primary stakeholders are on the scene".[30]

Citizendium articles are subject to an "approval" process after they have achieved reasonable quality. An "editor" can determine when an article is ready to be approved.[27]

The project is being carried out under the auspices of the Citizendium Foundation,[29] and was initially phased under the Tides Center as an incubator project.[31]


Breakdown of articles in December 2007

Citizendium original articles are available under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA).[32] "Articles that originated in part from Wikipedia are also available under [the] GNU Free Documentation License [version] 1.2."[33] The decision was announced on 21 December 2007, about a year after the launch of the pilot project.[34]


Number of articles from launch of the pilot project until late 2014.

Pilot project

The project was announced by Sanger on 15 September 2006, at the Wizards of OS 4 conference in Berlin. He gave no deadline for the full launch of the wiki.[35][36] However, on 2 October 2006, Sanger released a pilot project announcement that envisioned a fully functioning wiki within "one to two months".

In an apparent attempt to quicken the pace of the project, on 2 October 2006, Citizendium web forum moderator Peter Hitchmough suggested what he called an "alpha test" of the concept. Hitchmough proposed the forking of a limited number of Wikipedia articles to a site where Citizendium web forum and mailing list members could "rewrite a complete section" of Wikipedia content.[37]

Larry Sanger reacted enthusiastically to the idea and at first suggested his already existing Textop wiki as the site for the alpha test. Sanger later posted that Textop would not be a good choice, but showed continued interest in the proposal. He envisioned a "restricted-access" wiki where the idea could be tried and requested further discussion.[38]

No access to the pilot version of Citizendium, even read-only, was allowed to the general public. Sanger stated: "Only invited people will be able to view and edit the pilot project wiki."[39] Sanger also said that constables for the pilot project will be chosen by the chief constable.[40]

In a press release on 17 October 2006, Sanger announced: "the fledgling Citizendium Foundation will launch a six-week pilot project open to potential contributors by invitation". Several editors and other project leaders were named. It was also announced that the Citizendium Foundation had "started the process of applying for 501(c)(3) status [non-profit status]" and had "received a firm commitment for a significant seed grant from a foundation, as well as small personal donations".[12] In a follow-up post to the press release, Sanger said that the initial group allowed access to the pilot would consist of "ten editors, three constables, six authors, and me."[41]

The pilot project began operations on 23 October 2006.[42] On 8 November, Larry Sanger reported that 263 user names had access to the pilot wiki, 183 articles on the wiki were "live" (meaning "someone is or intends to be working on them") and there were about 300 total edits to the wiki on 7 November.[43]

Creation rate (articles per day) until late 2014.

In a 17 January 2007 post to the Citizendium forum, Sanger stated that "we have had only 10–20 (very) active people out of 500 accounts created". As a result, Sanger decided to delete all articles besides those marked "CZ live" from the pilot project in an attempt to motivate greater participation.[44] On 22 January 2007, Citizendium experimented with a new self-registration procedure: read/write access was granted automatically after creation of the account.[45] There were a few instances of vandalism after this change, though the vandalism was quickly reverted.[46] On 19 January, Sanger announced the formal organization of Citizendium as a legal non-profit organization.[47]

On 16 February 2007, in response to rising site vandalism, automatic account creation[45] was put on hold while increased protections were being put in place to counter vandalism.[48] The next day, page moves were limited to constables as an additional measure against vandalism.[49] In addition, Sanger continued the process of un-forking the Citizendium from Wikipedia by inviting contributors to delete any Wikipedia content that had changed only superficially since it was imported.


Default style of the homepage through early 2008; users can choose from a number of "skins", or formats.

On 25 March 2007, Citizendium ended its pilot phase and went live, into its beta phase, and the site became publicly readable.[50] The launch coincided with a feature-length Associated Press article that ran widely, with a title in USA Today of "Citizendium aims to be better Wikipedia".[51]

The day prior to launch, Sanger released an essay, "Why the Citizendium Will (Probably) Succeed" in which he stated that activity at Citizendium grew from 100 edits a day in the first month to over 500 prior to launch.[52] After the launch, on 27 March 2007, a press release quotes Sanger as saying "You don't have to choose between content and accountability. We have shown that we can create open and credible content. We can, in fact, be open to all sorts of participants, but still hold people to higher standards of content and behavior as a community."[53]

Sometime after the launch, it was noted that Citizendium's family-friendly policy would mean the project would likely tend to avoid articles on slang terms for sexual activity, and particularly explicit articles on sexual practices.[54] The Citizendium has a "professionalism" policy for editors, which Sanger said is different from most online communities.[55]

On 29 June 2007, Sanger announced an initiative via the project-wide mailing list that he dubbed "Citizendium 2.0". Characterizing his comments as a "project planning document", Sanger detailed a series of initiatives designed to launch Citizendium into its next phase of development. The document outlined plans for a judicial board, an advisory board, a personnel manager, a new chairman of the editorial council, wider participation in the project by volunteers, a system of subpages for articles, and an expanded article checklist.[56]

Later developments

Number of users making at least one edit in a given month, until late 2014.

At the project's first anniversary in September 2007, Citizendium included 3000 articles written and revised by 2000 people.[57] A number of media reports appeared in late October and early November 2007 about the anniversary of Citizendium. A story in the Financial Times quoted Larry Sanger predicting strong growth for the project: "At some point, possibly very soon, the Citizendium will grow explosively – say, quadruple the number of its active contributors, or even grow by an order of magnitude. And it will experience that growth over the course of a month or two, and its growth will continue to accelerate from that higher rate."[58] (See chart at right; active contributors slowly went upwards during the remainder of 2007, then bubbled higher in the first quarter of 2008, but after that point steadily declined.)

Citizendium was honored on 5 December 2007, as an award finalist of the Society for New Communications Research. The Society describes itself as a nonprofit global think-tank "dedicated to the advanced study of new communications tools, technologies and emerging modes of communication, and their effect on traditional media, professional communications, business, culture and society". The Society chose Citizendium for an award because it considered it "a leading organization" in these respects.[59]

Library writer Walt Crawford noted in April 2009 that Citizendium appeared to be in an "extended lull", with a constant rate of creation of new articles at around 13–14 per day and a decline in the number of active authors.[60] In August 2009, Richard Waters wrote in the Financial Times technology blog: "At best, Citizendium could be called a qualified success. Launched in March 2007, as of August 2009 it had 11,810 articles – 2,999,674 fewer than the English-language version of Wikipedia."[61] Mathieu O'Neil, Principal Researcher at the Australian Department of Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy, wrote in a March 2010 article on crowdsourcing that "new participants to Wikipedia know that their contributions will have a significant audience; becoming a Wikipedia editor is trivial and instantaneous; since it lacks this immediate quality, Citizendium failed to attract the crowd".[62]

The project had a core of 25 contributors who made more than 100 edits a month, with 90 participants making at least one edit, during March 2010. Median word count dropped from 468 words per article in October 2007 to 151 in May 2010.[63] In June 2010, the number of users making 1, 20 or 100 edits per month all were at their lowest point since the project went public in March 2007.[63] By October 2011, only about a dozen members made edits on a typical day.[2] In September 2015, only seven editors had been active in the previous 30 days.[64]

In November 2016, a referendum was held to abolish the governing Citizendium Charter and the Council in favour of Wikipedia-style discussion and consensus. It attracted nine votes, and was passed. A new Managing Editor was to be elected at the same time, but there were no nominations.[65]

Financial endangerment

A financial report was issued in November 2010 and is updated monthly. Beginning in early 2011, the report re-emphasized concern about a lack of funds. The Management Council continues to search for a university, philanthropist, or any other source of funding to take on or help with server costs.[66] Hosting fees were decreased by using a lower cost provider and the site continues to operate.


  1. " Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2014-10-12.
  2. 1 2 3 Lee, Timothy B. "Citizendium turns five, but the Wikipedia fork is dead in the water". Ars Technica. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
  3. 1 2 "Welcome to Citizendium", Citizendium. Retrieved 2012-08-16, and "Number of authors", Citizendium. Retrieved 13 January 2013.
  4. "CZ:About – Citizendium". Retrieved 2013-11-18.
  5. Bergstein, Brian (25 March 2007). "Sanger says he co-started Wikipedia". MSNBC. Associated Press. Retrieved 25 March 2007. The nascent Web encyclopedia Citizendium springs from Larry Sanger, a philosophy Ph.D. who counts himself as a co-founder of Wikipedia, the site he now hopes to usurp. The claim doesn't seem particularly controversial — Sanger has long been cited as a co-founder. Yet the other founder, Jimmy Wales, isn't happy about it.
  6. Moody, Glyn (13 July 2006). "This time, it'll be a Wikipedia written by experts". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 March 2007. Larry Sanger seems to have a thing about free online encyclopedias. Although his main claim to fame is as the co-founder, along with Jimmy Wales, of Wikipedia, that is just one of several projects to produce large-scale, systematic stores of human knowledge he has been involved in. […] "[Jimmy Wales] saw that I was essentially looking for employment online and he was looking for someone to lead Nupedia … […]" Career: 1992–1996, 1997–1998 Graduate teaching associate, OSU; 2000–2002 Editor-in-chief, Nupedia; Co-founder and "chief organiser", Wikipedia […].
  7. Andrew Orlowski."Wikipedia founder forks Wikipedia, More experts, less fiddling?", The Register, 18 September 2006. In software engineering, a project fork occurs when developers take a copy of source code from one software package and start independent development on it, creating a distinct piece of software.
  8. "The Citizendium's Statement of Fundamental Policies". Citizendium. 6 September 2007. Retrieved 25 February 2008.
  9. McCarthy, Caroline (23 January 2007). "Citizendium: Wikipedia co-founder Sanger's Wikipedia riva l". CNET News. Retrieved 13 April 2009.
  10. Anderson, Nate (25 February 2007). "Citizendium: building a better Wikipedia". Ars Technica. Retrieved 13 April 2009.
  11. "[Citizendium-l] New Managing Editor and reduced Council sizes". The Mail Archive. 1 July 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  12. 1 2 Larry Sanger. "Co-Founder to Launch Edited Version of Wikipedia: Pilot Project for the Citizendium to Launch This Week", Citizendium, 17 October 2006.
  13. "CZ:Monthly Write-a-Thon". Citizendium. 1 August 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2007.
  14. 1 2 Larry Sanger. "OK, let's delete the Wikipedia articles (an experiment)", Citizendium-l mail list, 18 January 2007.
  15. Larry Sanger [Citizendium-l] My recent absence
  16. "WatchKnow". WatchKnow. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
  17. "CZ:Charter". Citizendium, 23 September 2010. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
  18. Larry Sanger blog post, Citizendium blog: Citizendium Charter Ratified
  19. Jones, Russell D. "Announcements", Citizendium, 6 November 2010. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  20. "CZ:DeWPify". Citizendium. 26 April 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  21. "CZ:FAQ – You began as a fork of Wikipedia, and then decided not to fork after all, but start most of your articles over from scratch. Why?". Citizendium. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  22. "CZ:Statistics". Citizendium. 4 March 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  23. Larry Sanger. "Why we should fork all at once", Citizendium-l mail list, 29 September 2006.
  24. Larry Sanger. "Forking argument summary", Citizendium forum, 29 September 2006.
  25. Larry Sanger (17 July 2007). "Review of Keen's "Cult of the Amateur"". Citizendium Blog. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  26. Larry Sanger. "Toward a New Compendium of Knowledge (longer version)".
  27. 1 2 3 Larry Sanger. "Citizendium Policy Outline", Citizendium.
  28. Rosenzweig, Roy (2006). "Can History Be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past". The Journal of American History. 1: 117–146. doi:10.2307/4486062.
  29. 1 2 Larry Sanger. "Constables, editors, and the Citizendium Foundation", Citizendium-l mail list, 23 September 2006.
  30. Larry Sanger. "How should we manage growth?", Citizendium forum, 2 October 2006.
  31. "Project Directory: Citizendium Foundation". The Tides Center. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 5 June 2007.
  32. Sanger, Larry (21 December 2007). "The Citizendium encyclopedia project picks a Creative Commons license". Retrieved 25 December 2007.
  33. "Citizendium:Main Page". Citizendium. Retrieved 14 September 2009.
  34. Sanger, Larry (22 December 2007). "An explanation of the Citizendium license". Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  35. Larry Sanger. "Citizendium launch plan as of 26 September", Citizendium-l mail list, 27 September 2006.
  36. WOS video stream containing Sanger's announcement
  37. Peter Hitchmough. "Proposal: Fork Wikipedia and launch with some A1-class model subjects", Citizendium forum, 2 October 2006.
  38. Larry Sanger. "Administrivia: interesting pilot project proposal", Citizendium-l mail list, 2 October 2006.
  39. Larry Sanger. "Call for applications to participate in the Citizendium Pilot Project", Citizendium.
  40. Larry Sanger. "Pilot Project Application Review Procedure", Citizendium-l mail list, 13 November 2006.
  41. Larry Sanger. "Ad hoc steering group kicked off", Citizendium-l mail list, 18 October 2006.
  42. Jason Potkanski. "Developers Wanted: Open", Citizendium-l mail list, 23 October 2006.
  43. Larry Sanger. "Stats", Citizendium blog, 8 November 2006.
  44. Larry Sanger. "Would you contribute more if the wiki were blank?", Citizendium forum, 17 January 2007.
  45. 1 2 Larry Sanger. "Self-registration begins!", Citizendium-l mail list, 22 January 2007. The first act of vandalism was carried out via an account named 'Chris Nguyen', to vandalise three pages including the main one and that of Larry Sanger, apparently before the announcement was made. The account was indefinitely blocked a little over half an hour after the first improper edit.
  46. Citizendium pilot wiki. "Main page revision history", 23 January 2007.
  47. Larry Sanger. Upcoming announcements; your help requested, Citizendium-l mail list, 19 January 2007
  48. Vandal Assault, at the Citizendium Blog Archived 27 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  49. "Page moves now require constable help; and semi-automated hand-approval of new accounts?", Citizendium-l mail list, 17 February 2007
  50. Larry Sanger. "We have launched", Citizendium blog, 25 March 2007
  51. Bergstein, Brian (25 March 2007). "Citizendium aims to be better Wikipedia". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 25 March 2007. "This week, Sanger takes the wraps off a Wikipedia alternative, Citizendium. His goal is to capture Wikipedia's bustle but this time, avoid the vandalism and inconsistency that are its pitfalls." — Brian Bergstein.
  52. Larry Sanger. "Why the Citizendium Will (Probably) Succeed", Citizendium, March 2007.
    "Our activity has grown from 100 edits per day in the first month to over 500 prior to launch. Every day, a large variety of people from many fields sign on and do some work. This is all in a period in which the project has been visible only to those who have applied to the project. In addition, while it has received a fair bit of press, we have done very little in the way of recruitment—but with good results when we have. More aggressive recruitment is our trump card, which we haven't played."
  53. Larry Sanger. Citizendium Opens its Free Online Encyclopedia Project to the Public Citizendium, 27 March 2007.
    "The modest success of our pilot project shows that there is hope that we can correct exactly the sort of abuses that people demonize Web 2.0 for," said the project's Editor-in-Chief, Wikipedia co-founder Dr. Larry Sanger. "You don't have to choose between content and accountability. We have shown that we can create open and credible content. We can, in fact, be open to all sorts of participants, but still hold people to higher standards of content and behavior as a community."
  54. Sanger, Larry. "CZ:Family-Friendly Policy". Citizendium. Retrieved 7 June 2007. Probably, we will not have graphic depictions of the sex act or photographs of human sex organs; we will have few articles about pornography; we will not catalog every sex position and every fetish; we will not have gratuitous, and truly shocking and disgusting, pictures of gore (e.g., crime scene photos); and so forth.
  55. Sanger, Larry. "CZ:Professionalism". Citizendium. Retrieved 15 July 2007. The Citizendium differs significantly from other online communities in its commitment to professionalism—that is, professional behavior—and low tolerance for incivility and disruption. For there to be efficient content output and motivated contributors it is crucial that we all treat each other "professionally," and each other's work respectfully.
  56. Larry Sanger (29 June 2007). "Toward CZ 2.0". Citizendium-l. Retrieved 29 June 2007.
  57. (French) Comment le web change le monde : l'alchimie des multitudes, Francis Pisani et Dominique Piotet, éd. Pearson, 2008 (ISBN 978-2-7440-6261-2), p. 120
  58. Waters, Richard (5 November 2007). "Citizendium vs Wikipedia". Financial Times. London. Retrieved 15 November 2007.
  59. Report: The Society for New Communications Research website: Also see Citizendium Blog entry.
  60. Crawford, Walt, Cites & Insights Volume 9, Number 5 (April 2009), ISSN 1534-0937.
  61. "Citizendium founder ready to jump ship". The Financial Times, 25 August 2009. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
  62. O'Neil, M., 2010: Shirky and Sanger, or the cost of crowdsourcing. Journal of Science Communication 09(01) C04.
  63. 1 2 "CZ:Statistics". Citizendium, 28 March 2007. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
  64. "Recent changes". Citizendium. 2015-09-25. Archived from the original on 2015-09-25.
  65. "Election November 2016". 2016-11-08. Retrieved 2016-11-25.
  66. "CZ:Financial report". Citizendium, 15 March 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2011.

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