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To create an extensive how-to manual with accurate, up-to-date instructions on every imaginable topic in multiple languages, wikiHow was founded by Jack Herrick on January 15, 2005. Josh Hannah assisted by paying for the servers and other expenses and Travis Derouin did all the engineering work on the site. This page is the story of how wikiHow has evolved.
Before wikiHow, there was eHow
Jack envisioned building a massive how-to manual with accurate, up-to-date instructions on every imaginable topic in multiple languages. A multi-lingual manual on every topic would help millions of people worldwide learn how to do any activity that they desired.
So when eHow was in the process of going bankrupt, he and Josh bought it. eHow is a fantastic resource that, as of May 1, 2006, had 17,000 professionally written and edited how-to articles. Read the History of eHow here. Yet despite eHow's success, Jack was disappointed that the eHow model of hiring professional writers and editors would ultimately fail to produce the extensive how-to manual that he envisioned. The professional writer business model worked well for commercial topics such as How to Get a Mortgage Online but it didn't work for topics that weren't as interesting to advertisers but still piqued the interests of people worldwide, such as How to Find True North Without a Compass, How to Read and Write in 1337, or How to Make a Goldfish Live for Decades. Also, advertisers would not support the translation of how-to content into a multitude of languages.
Inspiration from Wikipedia
Meanwhile, Wikipedia demonstrated that a massive encyclopedia could be built by a community of passionate volunteers. The "wiki way" illuminated a superior method to enable knowledge sharing among thousands of people. Intending to do to the how-to manual what Wikipedia did to the encyclopedia, Travis and Jack began modifying the open-source MediaWiki software in late 2004 to be more suitable for a how-to manual.
Launch of wikiHow
wikiHow was opened to the world on January 15, 2005, a day specifically selected because it was Wikipedia's 4th birthday. At first, not much happened. Travis wrote the first article "How to Ride the Elevator." (Reflecting wikiHow's continually rising quality standards, the community deleted that article about 1 year later for the reason of "not useful.") By the end of January, 2638 unique visitors came and read the meager selection of articles. Of those first 2638 readers, 9 people made more than 10 edits.
Slowly but steadily, people around the world who were inspired by the goal of building a massive how-to manual started to join the community. Every person who edited made the site a little better for the next reader. And as the site got better, more people told their friends about it, bringing in still more readers and helpful editors. By April, over 100,000 readers were visiting wikiHow each month. By June, bloggers and the press were starting to write about the "how-to wiki" Eventually, wikiHow appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, ABC News, PBS Newshour, Singapore Straits Times, LeMonde, and other media.
As wikiHow grew more popular, Jack started to gradually reduce his hours at his "day job" at a semiconductor technology company and spend more time on wikiHow. Travis continued getting his Master's degree at night but was otherwise working full time, creating new features and managing an increasing number of servers.
wikiHow Gains Independence
Recognizing that the eHow model wasn't going to help build a complete how-to manual, Jack and Josh sold eHow to Demand Media on May 1, 2006. The transaction helped fund wikiHow and also allowed wikiHow to become independent from eHow's constraints. eHow and wikiHow continue to link to one another but otherwise have no affiliation.
After wikiHow became independent, DemandMedia started allowing user contributions at eHow. Despite similar-sounding names, eHow and wikiHow are quite different: Unlike wikiHow, eHow is not a wiki, nor is it Creative Commons licensed, nor is it run on freely shared open-source software, nor is it essentially governed and managed by its community.
Today, wikiHow receives several million readers a month (see stats here) and has been edited by thousands of people. As of this minute, wikiHow contains 216,383 articles.
In late 2006, Jack quit his day job at the semiconductor technology company and now works on wikiHow full time. Travis is no longer actively involved with wikiHow. He now works writing software for gyms. We appreciate the work he put in to help make wikiHow the site it is today. Josh is also not actively involved with wikiHow, but we continue to appreciate his financial contributions that made wikiHow possible.
Imagine if everyone on Earth had an expert coach who could teach them how to do anything. That is what we hope wikiHow will eventually offer to the world. We recognize that this ambitious, challenging goal will likely take decades and the help of hundreds of thousands of people to achieve. But we do take comfort in the fact that as we build it, wikiHow gets noticeably better every month. We hope that you can join us.