Digital Universe

Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger raised $10m to hire experts to help edit Digital Universe, applying a more expert-driven model. digitaluniverse.net launched in 2006, starting with Earthportal.net.

Sanger had previously worked on the failed Nupedia effort, which DU very strongly resembles. He left Wikipedia in 2002, criticizing what he called its bias against expertise. He had notable trolling exchanges with Jim Wales who many thought had taken credit for Sanger's good work on the ontology of Wikipedia, notably defining and elaborating its neutral point of view ideology through many specific case disputes.

prestigious supporters

Digital Universe seeks likewise to harness wide public input and mass peer review but with acknowledged experts acting as stewards. It is supported by the US National Council for Science and the Environment, the American Museum of Natural History, the World Resources Institute, the UN and UCB. It expects to fund itself by making copyrighted material available to subscribers. It also offers a richer web service, and much more attractive web user interface.

expects higher quality people

While Wikipedia's ArbCom in particular has contributed to the model of deliberative democracy later extended by open politics itself, sometimes no amount of process tweaking can compensate for the dearth of quality people.

Digital Universe's model is designed to limit the degree to which experts find themselves up against gangs of know-nothings, or "trolls".This aspect of Wikipedia immediately repelled all but the most dedicated experts, leaving edit war of attrition to define the concepts in the end.

DU starts with a significant advantage similar to that of Britannica: It wants to find qualified people with credentials, and it can afford to pay them.


The Register UK: $10M for a Wikipedia for grown-ups