Though founded in 2001, wikipedia wasn’t the internet’s first enciclopedia. The idea was really formed with the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy book and the iPad looking Guide with ‘Don’t Panic’ in friendly letters over the cover. Douglas Adams wanted to use the internet somehow and when the rise of the dot.com boom in the late 1990s saw companies, artists and musicians all trying to cash in on the free promotion of the internet he thought about making guide a real thing. It launched in 1999.
The website was called h2g2, and like wikipedia, it was a collaborative online encyclopedia project. Users would write and edit the content. Early on there was a focus on travel, to ape the idea of the Hitchhikers Guide.., it would have independent reviews of towns and good places to see. The early version was called the ‘Earth edition’ of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Over time people found it more useful for an encyclopedia
It describes itself as “an unconventional guide to life, the universe, and everything”, in the spirit of the fictional publication The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy from the science fiction comedy series of the same name by Douglas Adams.
The website was funded by Adams himself. Originally to get the content going he employed a small staff to make basic listings as well as the coding to make the site possible. The software used was made in PERL for the site and called DNA (Douglas Neil Adams). It would be monitised by the software sales to other companies including the BBC. When the dot come bubble popped the BBC took over the running of the H2G2 website as they wanted a digital version of Teletext/CeeFax. They would use the DNA software until 2011 when the BBC had all their websites updated.