Yep, you read that right. Wikipedia, the undisputed king of free information was funded by a Adult site called Bomis. It seems almost completely unfathomable that such a useful site could be created with money from such a questionable source, but that was exactly what happened at the turn of the 21st century.
The link between Wikipedia and Bomis started in 1996. At that time you may recall that there was no Wikipedia at all. In fact, there weren’t really any significantly powerful or useful sites at the time. Sure, a few did exist, but the internet was not the jungle that it is today. But that doesn’t mean that it was an empty void, on the contrary. There were a multitude of websites, and plenty of people wanting to capitalize on the next big thing. A few of those people were Jimmy Wales, Tim Shell and Michael Davis. Jimmy Wales is of course the co-founder of Wikipedia.
Back in 1996, these three men were looking at creating a new profitable website. The idea for Wikipedia was still a few years off, so they settles on something different. They called their creation Bomis.
Now Bomis wasn’t always a Adult site. It initially started out as a directory of information about Chicago. Pretty boring huh? While directories aren’t the most entertaining places to visit, they can be very profitable. Just look at Google. The problem was that Bomis wasn’t making them much money, so they changed direction. They decided to try aiming for a male audience, creating content about sports, cars and other male oriented material. Although the traffic levels did improve, something else was needed. Enter Adult.
The site started to take off when they decided to focus on X-rated material. Initially the site contained only relatively tame erotic images, and another section called “Bomis Babe Report” featured soft Adult images. Now this was proving to be very popular, and a driving force for traffic, but they wanted some money. The solution to the problem was to add a premium section, where the user pays, that contained explicit content, and add a search portal with advertising. They found that 99 percent of searches were for nude women. They had struck gold with their new site and company.
Bomis was by far their most profitable website. In fact, their company was called Bomis. As it was beginning to become a success they decided to create Nupedia, an online encyclopedia similar to Wikipedia. One of the big differences was that the content was submitted by experts, and had to be verified, which took time, a lot of time. To try and speed up the process the Bomis team developed Wikipedia. The other huge difference was that it was made to be profitable.
When the dot-com occurred in the late 1990’s Bomis was hit hard. As Wikipedia was becoming extremely popular, and was a drain on Bomis, they decided to ditch the idea of Wikipedia being a profitable website.
Had the founders of Wikipedia never created the Bomis Adult site and used it to fund Wikipedia, the internet could have been an extremely different place today.