Digital Universe

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Digital Universe
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{{about|the internet portal|the software planetarium|Digital Universe Atlas|the electronic medium of computer networks|Cyberspace|the Computational theory of the Universe|Digital physics}}{{update|date=November 2010}}

Digital Universe was a free online information service founded in 2006.NEWS,weblink Wikipedia alternative aims to be 'PBS of the Web', Daniel Terdiman, Terdiman, Daniel, 19 December 2005, CNET News, 23 June 2010, The project aimed to create a "network of portals designed to provide high-quality information and services to the public". Subject matter experts were to have been responsible for reviewing and approving content; contributors were to have been both experts (researchers, scholars, educators) and the public."Digital Universe Launches Experts Recruitment Program", Digital Universe Foundation press release, May 15, 2006, accessed May 16, 2007The project was founded in 2005 by Joe Firmage, CEO of ManyOne, with Bernard Haisch as the president. It launched in early 2006. Larry Sanger was a director, and helped with the launch of the project's Encyclopedia of Earth. Sanger left in late 2006 to launch Citizendium.NEWS,weblink Wikipedia's Future, Udell, Jon, 9 January 2006, InfoWorld, 23 June 2010, NEWS,weblink This time, it'll be a Wikipedia written by experts, Moody, Glyn, 13 July 2006, The Guardian, 23 June 2010, NEWS,weblink Web encyclopedia won't include 'giving up', Blundo, Joe, 26 April 2007, Columbus Dispatch, 23 June 2010, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 3 September 2012, NEWS,weblink Wikipedia co-founder plans 'expert' rival, Olsen, Stefanie, 16 October 2006, CNET News, 23 June 2010,



In December 2005, when the project was announced, the founders' goal was to create a worldwide network of researchers, scholars, and educators, to become "the PBS of the Web."While the public will be invited to contribute to some articles in the Digital Universe encyclopedia, they will be supervised by "stewards" whose role is to guarantee quality and accuracy of the articles. In addition, parts of the Digital Universe will be editable only by credentialed experts.

Multi-tiered system

The expert wiki, is expected to be written and managed by experts.Larry Sanger, "The Digital Universe in 2006", Digital Universe Blog, January 20, 2006, accessed May 16, 2007The public wiki, will be editable by members of the educated public. However, according to Sanger, only registered users who have provided their real names will be permitted to edit this wiki. According to Sanger, an article rating system will be used for articles in the public wiki.Larry Sanger, "Correcting Some Misconceptions about the Digital Universe", Digital Universe Blog, January 19, 2006, accessed May 16, 2007Some of the 3-D graphical interface features will require the use of a Mozilla-based browser developed by ManyOne Networks, which they say will be made available free of charge.Some content will be available only to ManyOne subscribers.


Around 2000 content pages existed as of August 2007. The Digital Universe claims the following featured portals: Earth, Energy, The Arctic, Texas Environment, U.S. Government, and Salton Sea. The Salton Sea portal for example contains the following pages: Hydrology, Biology, Limnology, Ecological Issues, Values, Geography, Alternatives, and Cultural History.The Earth portal is working on an Encyclopedia of Earth (EoE),WEB, Earth Portal,, January 1, 2006, Larry Sanger,weblink 2006-09-21, PDF,weblink" title="">weblink 2006-07-10, yes, which will focus on the natural environment and its interaction with society.Cutler Cleveland (Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopedia of Earth), "More on the Wikipedia Alternative{{dead link|date=September 2017 |bot=InternetArchiveBot |fix-attempted=yes }}", CNET, reader posting, January 9, 2006 It will limit editing privileges to experts, by attributing all edits to their authors, by changes being published publicly only after approval and by using an expert-developed taxonomy for articles.EoE will use two parallel wikis, one "Stewarded", one "Public". The Stewarded wiki will be open only to "recognized scientific authorities" after their credentials have been reviewed.The Encyclopedia of Earth -- A Prospectus, accessed May 16, 2007 {{webarchive |url= |date=October 8, 2007 }} The EoE runs MediaWiki wiki software.Larry Sanger, posting in response to "Digital Universe and long odds" by Alex Halavais, 2 February 2006 EoE is to use the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 for its license.Frequently Asked Questions {{webarchive|url= |date=2006-07-21 }}", Earth Portal (dead link as of May 16, 2007; not available via Over 400 articles had been written by experts by January 2006.Art Jahnke,"World's experts gather online BU cultivates a corner of the Digital Universe"{{dead link|date=September 2017 |bot=InternetArchiveBot |fix-attempted=yes }}, Boston University (BU) Today, January 26, 2006In May 2006 it was reported that the EoE was due to be launched in June 2006.Laura Smith, "Digital Universe gets UK uni stars" {{webarchive|url= |date=2006-08-16 }}, Information World Review News, 9 May 2006 A July 2006 article reported that the launch would be in fall 2006.John Boundreau, "Digital Universe Wants to Assemble 'Information You Can Trust' About Science on its Web Site", July 24, 2006, The Mercury News, accessed July 24, 2006 (accessible via paid archive as of May 2007){{As of|2007|alt=As of May 2007}}, the EoE's International Advisory Board included Robert Costanza, Thomas Homer-Dixon, Rajendra K. Pachauri and Frank Sherwood Rowland.International Advisory Board, Earth Portal, accessed May 19, 2007


Principals of the Digital Universe project include Joe Firmage, USWeb founder; astrophysicist Bernard Haisch, president of the Digital Universe Foundation, and Larry Sanger. On 14 March 2006, the Digital Universe Foundation announced that Lawrence Lessig, Founder and Chairman of the Creative Commons Project, had joined the Digital Universe advisory board."Prof. Lawrence Lessig Appointment Underscores Digital Universe Commitment to Bring Together Renowned Experts Across Disciplines", March 14, 2006In September 2006, Sanger announced that he had taken a "leave of absence" from Digital Universe "in order to set up a fully independent Citizendium Foundation".Citizendium-l: Citizendium launch plan as of September 26 {{webarchive |url= |date=July 20, 2011 }}, posting by Larry Sanger, September 27, 2006, to


In July 2006, the San Jose Mercury News reported that "Digital Universe, a non-profit based in Scotts Valley, is part of a complicated three-organization structure. ManyOne Networks is the for-profit arm of the operation, backed with angel investors and private investor funding that is developing the Digital Universe software. Its profits are funneled to the ManyOne Foundation, set up in Canada for tax purposes and to give the project a less U.S.-centric feel. Eventually, the foundation will acquire ManyOne Networks by buying out the investors at a fixed rate of return, Haisch said. The Digital Universe Foundation controls the content that is published online. It will issue grants to academics and researchers to produce work for the Web site. The plan is to create a self-sustainable organization through a mix of grants and revenue from premium services, such as high-resolution images and video and e-mail, with prices ranging from $7.95 to $49.95."As of January 2006, US$10.5 million had been raised from investors and foundations for the Digital Universe project.Leslie Walker, "A Universe of Good Intentions, A World of Practical Hurdles", Washington Post, January 19, 2006 ManyOne Networks plans to offer premium services for $7.95 a month and to sell Internet access. These revenues will be used in part to support the Digital Universe project. Firmage has stated that access to the basic Digital Universe content will always remain free and without advertisements.Dan Goodin, "Website aims to build non-profit research storehouse", Associated Press, March 5, 2006The stewardship program and other Digital Universe activities are the responsibility of the non-profit Digital Universe Foundation, headquartered in Scotts Valley, California.


In January 2006, the pilot version of Digital Universe was launched. This contained approximately 50 portals. Some visitors felt this version was confusing and difficult to navigate.Mike Langberg, "Firmage's `Universe' needs tweaks", Mercury News, January 18, 2006 Aaron Barlow, an Associate Professor at New York City College of Technology, wrote that "the problem with this, from a horizontal point of view, is that important work that really should be part of the education of the individual is moved to the "experts" who provide the gatekeeping. A neterate person should know how to negotiate the web for accurate information without need of a guide; providing guides may only prevent people from being fully able to manage the Web for themselves."BOOK, Barlow, Aaron, Blogging America: the new public sphere,weblink 2008, Greenwood Publishing Group, 0-275-99872-X, 95,

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