Skip to content

The First Free Online Encyclopedia

“An ency­clo­pe­dia (Amer­i­can Eng­lish) or ency­clopæ­dia (British Eng­lish) is a ref­er­ence work or com­pendium providing
sum­maries of knowl­edge either gen­eral or spe­cial to a par­tic­u­lar field or dis­ci­pline. Wikipedia

The domain “” was reg­is­tered on Octo­ber 3, 1995.

Auto­Pe­dia® — the Auto­mo­tive Ency­clo­pe­dia went online in Novem­ber, 1995 and the ear­li­est inde­pen­dent third-party doc­u­men­ta­tion of Auto­Pe­dia® online by’s “Way­back Machine” — is Octo­ber 29, 1996. How­ever, when you click on the Octo­ber 29, 1996 link for the site and then click on the “Hon­ored Guest Reg­istry” or the “Tire BBS” links in the archived doc­u­ment, there are addi­tional archived entries from users dat­ing from June 12, 1996 and June 20, 1996 respec­tively. (Note: The’s “Way­back Machine” started crawl­ing the web on Octo­ber, 29 1996.)

The Wikipedia dis­cus­sion of online ency­clo­pe­dias is lim­ited to “free wiki-type aca­d­e­mic ency­clo­pe­dias cre­ated by users” and men­tions var­i­ous projects includ­ing these:

“The con­cept of a new free ency­clo­pe­dia began with the Inter­pe­dia pro­posal on Usenet in 1993, which out­lined an Inter­net-based online ency­clo­pe­dia to which any­one could sub­mit con­tent and that would be freely acces­si­ble. Early projects in this vein included Everything2 and Open Site. In 1999, Richard Stall­man pro­posed the GNU­Pe­dia, an online ency­clo­pe­dia which, sim­i­lar to the GNU oper­at­ing sys­tem, would be a “generic” resource. The con­cept was very sim­i­lar to Inter­pe­dia, but more in line with Stall­man’s GNU philosophy.”

Auto­Pe­dia® on the other hand, was designed as a “con­sumer ency­clo­pe­dia” pro­vid­ing con­sumers with faster, eas­ier access to infor­ma­tion on the prod­ucts and ser­vices they want to buy. Although Auto­Pe­dia® has always accepted “user gen­er­ated con­tent and infor­ma­tion,” it has always been intended as a “con­sumer ency­clo­pe­dia” that assists Inter­net users who are seek­ing the infor­ma­tion they need in order to con­duct a transaction.

The fol­low­ing shows the ear­li­est “ency­clo­pe­dia” domain reg­is­tra­tion dates (listed first) and ear­li­est list­ings in’s Way­back Machine (listed sec­ond in paren­the­sis) Domain reg­is­tra­tion dates that are not linked are domains that expired and were renewed at a later date:

EXPEDIA.COM — Novem­ber 25, 1995 (11/21/96)*
June 25, 1996 (10/24/1997)
WINE-ENCYCLOPEDIA.COM — Sep­tem­ber 4, 1996 (Site was never online through 2011)
GEOPEDIA.COM - Octo­ber 9, 1996 (12/26/1996) - Octo­ber 25, 1996 (12/22/1996)
ATLAPEDIA.COM - Novem­ber 5, 1996 (7/14/1997)
ELEKTRAPEDIA.COM — Decem­ber 12, 1996 (2/29/2000)
INVESTOPEDIA.COM - July 25, 1999 (2/29/2000)
WORLDBOOKONLINE.COM - April, 15, 1999 (11/11/1999) - Octo­ber 29, 1999 (3/4/2000)
OPENSITE.ORG - Jan­u­ary 28, 2000 (3/1/2003) - Feb­ru­ary 10, 2000 (07/21/2001) - Jan­u­ary 13, 2001 (3/31/2001)

WORLDBOOK.COM - April 20, 1995 (12/23/1996) - The site was cre­ated to sell the CD-ROM ver­sion of World Book Ency­clo­pe­dia. The World Book online ver­sion was avail­able at start­ing Novem­ber 11, 1999.

BRITANNICA.COM — June 14, 1995 (5/23/1998) — This site was not an online ver­sion of Ency­clo­pe­dia Bri­tan­nica. It was a site ded­i­cated to sell­ing sub­scrip­tions to the Ency­clo­pe­dia Bri­tan­nica start­ing in 1998.

Although there are unsub­stan­ti­ated claims of “dis­cussing,” “coin­ing,” and “plan­ning” var­i­ous PEDIA suf­fix sites as early as 1990, the inde­pen­dent third-party records of the dates of domain reg­is­tra­tion and the date of an actual work­ing web­site being online and indexed by’s Way­back Machine are as doc­u­mented above.

Even the most con­ser­v­a­tive Auto­Pe­dia® online date from’s Way­back Machine taken from the Guest Reg­istry or Tire BBS, is BEFORE the domain reg­is­tra­tion date of any other online ency­clo­pe­dia site.

*Although “Expe­dia” was NOT an ency­clo­pe­dia, it was a com­bi­na­tion of the word “explo­ration” and “speed” (accord­ing to the founder, Rich Bar­ton). How­ever, in the early stages of the com­pany, most con­sumers had no idea what the name actu­ally stood for. And con­sumers would have been heav­ily influ­enced by the com­bi­na­tion of the “rep­re­sen­ta­tive­ness heuris­tic” and the “con­fir­ma­tion bias” when they first encoun­tered the name “Expe­dia” as a com­pre­hen­sive travel site.