Bomis

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Bomis, Inc.
Logo bomis.gif
TypePrivate company
Foundation date1996
HeadquartersSt. Petersburg, Florida, United States
Founder(s)Jimmy Wales
Tim Shell
Michael Davis
IndustryDot-com
ProductsBomis Premium[1][2]
Bomis Babes[3][4]
Bomis Babe Report[5][6]
The Babe Engine[1][7]
Bomis Browser[8]
Employees10
SubsidiariesNupedia (2000–2003)[9][10]
Wikipedia (2001–2003)[6][11]
Websitebomis.com, archived at the Internet Archive
Type of siteInternet portal
Advertising space
AdvertisingYes
RegistrationNo
Available inEnglish
Launched1996
Current statusDefunct[12][13][14]
 
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Bomis, Inc.
Logo bomis.gif
TypePrivate company
Foundation date1996
HeadquartersSt. Petersburg, Florida, United States
Founder(s)Jimmy Wales
Tim Shell
Michael Davis
IndustryDot-com
ProductsBomis Premium[1][2]
Bomis Babes[3][4]
Bomis Babe Report[5][6]
The Babe Engine[1][7]
Bomis Browser[8]
Employees10
SubsidiariesNupedia (2000–2003)[9][10]
Wikipedia (2001–2003)[6][11]
Websitebomis.com, archived at the Internet Archive
Type of siteInternet portal
Advertising space
AdvertisingYes
RegistrationNo
Available inEnglish
Launched1996
Current statusDefunct[12][13][14]

Bomis (/ˈbɒmɨs/ to rhyme with "promise")[15] was a dot-com company best known for having supported the creation of the free-content online encyclopedia projects Nupedia and subsequently Wikipedia.[7] It was founded in 1996 by Jimmy Wales, Tim Shell, and Michael Davis.[16][17][18] Davis had become acquainted with Wales after hiring him at Chicago Options Associates in 1994.[18] Wales became friends with Shell through mailing lists discussing philosophy.[18][19] The primary business of Bomis was the sale of advertising on the Bomis.com search portal.[20]

The company initially tried different ideas for content, including serving as a directory of information about Chicago.[21] The site subsequently focused on content geared for a male audience, including information on sporting activities, automobiles, and females.[22][23][24] Bomis became successful after focusing on X-rated media.[25] It included "Bomis Babes", which was a segment devoted to erotic images.[3] Within this section the site featured the Bomis Babe Report which documented adult pictures.[6][11] Bomis Premium was a section of the site available for an additional fee to subscribers which provided explicit material.[2][26][25] "The Babe Engine" was a feature on the site which helped users find erotic content through a web search engine.[1][7][27] The advertising director for Bomis noted 99% of queries on the site were for nude women.[28]

Bomis started Nupedia as a free online encyclopedia with content submitted by experts; it suffered from a tedious and slow review process.[29][30] Bomis launched Wikipedia initially to help provide content for Nupedia.[19][31][10] Wikipedia remained a for-profit venture operating under the auspices of Bomis throughout the end of 2002.[32] As the costs of Wikipedia rose with its popularity, Bomis' revenues declined as result of the dot-com crash.[33] Since Wikipedia became a drain on Bomis' resources, Wales and philosophy graduate student Larry Sanger decided to fund the project through charity.[33] Sanger was laid off from Bomis in 2002.[34] Nupedia content was merged into Wikipedia,[35] and subsequently closed in 2003.[9]

The non-profit organization the Wikimedia Foundation was started in 2003 with a Board of Trustees composed of the three founders of Bomis: Jimmy Wales, Michael Davis, and Tim Shell.[18] The Wikimedia Foundation was first headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida,[36] where Bomis was located.[37] Wales utilized approximately US$100,000 of revenues from Bomis to assist Wikipedia prior to the decision to shift the encyclopedia to a non-profit status.[38] Wales stepped down from his role as CEO of Bomis in 2004.[39] Tim Shell served as CEO of the company in 2005 while simultaneously serving on the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation.[5] Wales edited Wikipedia in 2005 to remove characterizations of Bomis as soft-core pornography.[19][40] The incident drew attention towards Wales' actions from the media.[26][41][42] Wales stated his regret for his actions.[19][40] The Atlantic gave Bomis the nickname "Playboy of the Internet";[43] this term caught on in the media.[44][33][45] Academics and scholars have characterized Bomis as a form of soft-core pornography.[31][46]

History[edit]

Background[edit]

Jimmy Wales left a studies track at Indiana University as a PhD candidate to begin work in finance, before completing his doctoral dissertation.[44][47][30] In 1994 Wales was hired by Michael Davis, CEO of the finance company Chicago Options Associates, to work there as a trader.[18][48][49] He focused in trading futures contracts and options.[48][49] Wales was adept at determining future movements of foreign currency and interest rates.[44][30] He was quite successful working as a trader in Chicago and became independently wealthy.[44][48][30] Wales served in the position of director of research at Chicago Options Associates, from 1994 to 2000.[50][51][52] He became acquainted with Tim Shell from email lists discussing philosophy.[18][19]

Wales wanted to participate in the online-based entrepreneurial ventures which were gaining popularity and success during the middle of the 1990s.[45] He had previous experience from gaming in his youth which impressed upon him the influence of networking in society.[45] Wales had a fascination with computer science, and tooled with source code on the Internet.[29] He maintained a hobby increasing his skills at computer programming.[53] During his spare time after getting home from Chicago Options Associates, Wales constructed his own form of web browser.[19] While employed at Chicago Options Associates he observed the initial public offering of Netscape Communications in 1995, which was quite successful.[5][29]

Foundation[edit]

Bomis founders
Jimmy Wales
Jimmy Wales
Tim Shell
Tim Shell
Michael Davis
Michael Davis


Bomis was founded by Jimmy Wales, Tim Shell, and Michael Davis.[16][17][18]

Wales co-founded Bomis in 1996 with his business associates Tim Shell,[25][32][2] and his then-manager Michael Davis.[16][17][18] The three started the organization as a for-profit corporation.[54][55] Together they held joint-ownership over the corporation.[17] Wales was the chief manager behind the company.[56] In 1998 Wales moved from Chicago, Illinois, to San Diego, California to work for Bomis.[57][58][27] He moved to St. Petersburg, Florida where the company was subsequently located.[37]

Staff for Bomis started out at approximately five employees.[17][28] In 2000 staff included Toan Vo as programmer, and Jason Richey as system administrator.[17] Wales employed his friend from high school, Terry Foote, as a business associate at Bomis.[48][49] Foote served as the advertising director at Bomis.[28] In June 2000, Bomis was one of five network partners of Ask Jeeves.[59]

Formally BOMIS is not an abbreviation; the motivation for the name stemmed from an acronym for "Bitter Old Men in Suits" that Wales and Shell had used to refer to themselves during the time period when they were working in Chicago.[18][32][60] The site started as a form of web portal.[25][36] Bomis initially experimented with multiple ideas, including serving as an access point for information about Chicago.[21] It subsequently focused on content geared for a male audience, including information on sporting activities, automobiles, and females.[22][23][24]

Hosted content[edit]

Silvia Saint in a Bomis T-Shirt[61][62][63]

Bomis created and maintained hundreds of webrings on topics related to lad culture.[43] In 1999, the company made available the Bomis Browser, which helped users block pop-up ads online.[8] Its webring on Star Wars was cited as a useful resource for information on The Phantom Menace.[64] Additional webrings included a section helping users find information on the film Casablanca,[65] Hunter S. Thompson,[66] Farah Fawcett,[67] Geri Haliwell of the Spice Girls,[68] and one about the film Snake Eyes.[69] "Bomis: The Buffy the Vampire Slayer Ring" devoted to the television program Buffy the Vampire Slayer organized over 50 relevant sites related to the program.[70] Sheila Jeffreys noted in her book Beauty and Misogyny that in 2004 Bomis maintained "The Lipstick Fetish Ring" which assisted users with finding information for those with a particular attraction towards women wearing makeup.[71]

Bomis became successful after focusing on X-rated media.[25] Advertising garnered monetary earnings which enabled the company to provide funding for other websites.[20][2][72] The site published suggestive pictures of women who were professional models.[73] In addition to Bomis the company also maintained the web site nekkid.com,[41] and nekkid.info;[1] these sites displayed pictures of nude females.[1] Approximately ten percent of revenues for Bomis were derived from pornographic films and blogs.[57][1]

Bomis included a segment devoted to erotic images titled, "Bomis Babes".[3][4] There was a feature on the site where users could submit recommended links to other sites on topics which appealed to a male audience.[47] Peer-to-peer services provided by the site assisted users in finding other websites about female celebrities including Anna Kournikova and Pamela Anderson.[45] Within the Bomis Babes section, the site featured the Bomis Babe Report which documented adult pictures.[6][11][60] The Bomis Babe Report was started in 2000.[14] It functioned as a form of blog which put forth images of porn stars.[14][48][49] Additionally, the Bomis Babe Report produced its own original erotic material.[5][14] Such material included reports on pornographic film actors and celebrities that had removed their attire in pictures.[14] It was referred to as The Babe Report for short.[41]

Wales agreed with the colloquial expression "glamour photography" to refer to content on the site.[74][75] Bomis included softcore pornography among its erotic material offerings.[46][44][37] Bomis became familiar to Internet users for its erotic images.[76][77][78] During this time period, Wales was photographed steering a yacht with a peaked cap posing as a sea captain with one professional female model on either side of him.[79][14][80] In the photograph, these women were clothed in panties along with t-shirts which advertised the Bomis brand.[79][14][80]

Users were able to pay for a subscription to a section of the site titled Bomis Premium,[1] which provided access to premium adult content and erotic material.[25][26][2] For US$2.95, the site offered a 3-day trial for access to Bomis Premium.[80] Bomis Babes provided naked images of females to the subscribers of its services.[26] Bomis Premium displayed lesbian sexual practices, and showed viewers female anatomy.[14] Bomis created "The Babe Engine",[1] which helped users find erotic material online through a web search engine.[7][27] According to Bomis advertising director Terry Foote, 99% of searches on the site were related to queries for nude women.[28]

Nupedia and Wikipedia[edit]

The Bomis staff, summer 2000
Bomis, Inc. staff (Summer 2000)

Bomis is best known for having supported the creation of the free-content online encyclopedia projects Nupedia and subsequently Wikipedia.[20][7] Tim Shell and Michael David continued their partnership with Wales during the Nupedia venture in 2000.[16] Larry Sanger met Jimmy Wales through an e-mail communication group about philosophy and objectivism.[58][21][10] Sanger joined the staff of Bomis in February 2000.[81] At the time of his hiring by Bomis, Sanger was a graduate student working towards a PhD degree in philosophy with a research focus on epistemology.[24][21][82] Sanger ultimately received his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Ohio State University.[83] He moved to San Diego, California in order to help Bomis with its encyclopedia venture.[81]

Sanger and Jimmy Wales started Nupedia while utilizing resources from Bomis.[7] In the beginning of 2000, Bomis agreed to provide early financing for Nupedia through some of the company's profits.[24][46][84] Nupedia first went live in March 2000.[6][11][11] Jimmy Wales was CEO of Bomis, Inc. in March 2000.[85] Sanger served as editor-in-chief of Nupedia.[29][86] The reading comprehension for Nupedia was intended to be applicable for high-school graduates.[87] Bomis set as its goal for Nupedia: "To set a new standard for breadth, depth, timeliness and lack of bias, and in the fullness of time to become the most comprehensive encyclopedia in the history of humankind."[87][88]

Bomis began a search for experts to vet articles on Nupedia; these steps proved tedious in nature.[31] In August 2000, Nupedia included over 60 academics contributing to the peer review process on the site; a majority of them held doctor of philosophy or doctor of medicine degrees.[89] Scholars intending to contribute to Nupedia were required to submit their credentials via fax to verify their degrees were legitimate.[90] At that time Bomis was in the process of obtaining advertising revenue for Nupedia.[89] Bomis was optimistic that it could fund the project through ad space strategically placed on Nupedia.com.[88]

Wikipedia began as a feature of Nupedia.com on January 15, 2001.[53][91] This date would subsequently be referred to as Wikipedia Day.[48][85] Originally Wikipedia was only intended as a method to create additional articles for Nupedia.[19][31][10] Wikipedia was to be used as a draft process, with the intention to subsequently move finished articles over to Nupedia.[92] Wikipedia became its own separate site in the following days after the Nupedia advisory board opposed the combination of the two.[85][91] In September 2001, Wales functioned in dual-roles simultaneously as both CEO of Bomis and co-founder of Wikipedia.[93] Sanger functioned simultaneously as chief organizer of Wikipedia and editor-in-chief of Nupedia.[34][94]

Nupedia was encumbered due to its laborious peer review system.[29][30] The peer review method on Nupedia consisted of a seven-step-process.[85][92] Articles were required to go through multiple stages of both review and copy editing.[10] Wikipedia grew at a faster rate than Nupedia.[36][95] In November 2000, Nupedia had 115 potential articles awaiting entrance into its peer review process.[88][92] By September 2001, after a total investment of US$250,000 from Bomis, Nupedia had produced 12 articles.[5][90][92] From the period of 2000 through 2003, Nupedia contributors produced a total of 24 finalized articles.[19][36][85] Wikipedia had about 20,000 articles and functioned in 18 languages by the tail end of 2001.[96]

Originally, Bomis was planning to make Wikipedia a profitable business.[97] Bomis provided all of the staffing needs and technical hardware capabilities for Wikipedia's initial structure.[36] Wikipedia would not have survived without this early support from Bomis.[6][11] For a while, Bomis provided web servers and bandwidth for these projects, and owned key items such as the associated domain names.[33] Wales personally handed over cheques from Bomis to maintain the Wikipedia servers which were located in Tampa, Florida.[48][49][1]

As the costs of Wikipedia rose with its popularity, Bomis' revenues declined as result of the dot-com crash.[33][53] Towards the conclusion of 2000 Bomis had a staff of approximately 11 employees; by the start of 2002 the company had to lay off workers due to financial difficulties and had decreased to their initial size of about five employees.[17] Sanger was laid off in February 2002.[34][60] From January 15, 2001 through March 1, 2002, Sanger was the sole paid editor of Wikipedia.[34] He stepped down from his dual roles as Chief Organizer of Wikipedia and Editor-in-Chief of Nupedia on March 1, 2002, because he felt he would be unable to significantly commit to these arenas as a volunteer in a non-full-time capacity.[34] Sanger felt there was a dearth of "the habit or tradition of respect for expertise" from the high-ranking members of Wikipedia.[9] He continued to contribute to community discussions and felt optimistic about the potential for the future success of Wikipedia.[60][98]

After Sanger's departure Wikipedia was managed by Wales along with the burgeoning online community.[83] Wales thought advertising was a possibility, but the Wikipedia community was against any business development.[17][43][97] Additionally the market towards the end of 2002 was a difficult one for successful Internet marketing.[17] Wikipedia remained a for-profit venture operating under the auspices of Bomis throughout the end of 2002.[32] By the end of 2002, Wikipedia had moved from a .com domain name to .org.[58][96] Wales declared that the site would not accept advertising on the web site.[96] The material from Nupedia was folded into Wikipedia.[35] By 2003, Nupedia was closed in favor of Wikipedia.[9][10]

Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees[edit]

In 2004 community elections added two Wikipedia contributors to the Board; the three founders of Bomis retained their seats.[18]

Since Wikipedia became a drain on Bomis' resources, Wales and Sanger decided to fund the project through charity.[33] Bomis was placed into a position where it needed to lay off the majority of its employees in order to continue operating, as Wikipedia was not producing revenues for the company.[32] Bomis effectively owned the assets of Wikipedia from its creation through 2003.[6][11] Wales utilized approximately US$100,000 of revenues from Bomis to assist Wikipedia prior to the decision to shift the encyclopedia to a non-profit status.[38]

In June 2003, the property of Wikipedia was formally given over to the nascent non-profit organization, the Wikimedia Foundation.[6][11] The Wikimedia Foundation was formed to serve as a charitable institution with a mission of supervising Wikipedia and multiple other associated wiki-based sites.[99][100] Once the Wikimedia Foundation was set up, its staff began to solicit sources of public funding.[99] Bomis turned over its associated ownership rights regarding Wikipedia to the new non-profit.[60] All hardware owned by Bomis used to run Wikipedia associated web sites was given to the Wikimedia Foundation.[36] Wales swapped the copyright ownerships related to Wikipedia from Bomis to the Wikimedia Foundation.[36] The Wikimedia Foundation was first headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida,[36] where Bomis was located.[37]

The Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation was initially composed of the three founders of Bomis: Jimmy Wales, and his two business partners from Bomis, Michael Davis and Tim Shell.[18] Members of the Wikipedia community complained that the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation was composed mainly of appointed individuals.[18] Subsequently the first elections were held, in 2004.[36] Two people from the Wikipedia community itself were then elected to the Board of Trustees: Florence Devouard and Angela Beesley.[18]

In August 2004, Wales was the chief executive officer of Bomis.[101] On September 20, 2004, Wikipedia reached a total of one million articles having expended US$500,000; the majority of this funding came directly from Wales.[58][90] In November 2004, Wales informed the St. Petersburg Times he was no longer in control of the day-to-day functions of Bomis but retained his ownership status over the company as one of its shareholders.[39] In 2005, Tim Shell was simultaneously CEO of Bomis and one of five board members overseeing Wikipedia.[5] Wales told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2007 that kept partial ownership in Bomis, but stated: "It's pretty much dead."[14] According to the Internet Archive, the Bomis website was last accessible with content in 2010.[12] When it was next accessed in 2013 by the Archive it gave a welcome message for PetaBox.[13]

Aftermath[edit]

Wikipedia edits about Bomis by Jimmy Wales
September 4, 2005
September 4, 2005
October 20, 2005
October 20, 2005
October 28, 2005
October 28, 2005


Modifications to Wikipedia about Bomis made by Jimmy Wales were publicized by author Rogers Cadenhead.[3][102]

In 2005, Wales made changes to his own Wikipedia biography a total of 18 times.[102][26][57] He removed references to Bomis Babes as softcore pornography and erotica.[26] Wales excised mention of Larry Sanger as co-founder of Wikipedia.[19][40] The actions by Wales were publicized by author Rogers Cadenhead.[3][102] The incident drew attention from the media, including reports in The Times,[26] Wired,[3] New Statesman,[40] Time,[102] the Herald Sun,[75] The New Yorker,[41] and The New York Times.[42] In 2011, Time identified the 2005 edits by Wales as among the "Top 10 Wikipedia Moments".[102]

Wikipedia's policies warned users not to edit their own biography pages.[3][42] Wikipedia's rules on autobiographical editing quoted from Wales: "It is a social faux pas to write about yourself."[6] Larry Sanger opined: "It does seem that Jimmy is attempting to rewrite history."[3][26] Sanger started a discussion on the talk page of the biography of Wales about the practice of historical revisionism.[3]

Wales characterized his actions as fixing mistakes on the site.[19] After Cadenhead had made public the Wikipedia co-founder's edits to his biography, Wales stated his regret for his actions.[7][103] In comments to The Times, Wales stated individuals shouldn't edit their own biographies on Wikipedia.[26] He told The New Yorker that this standard applied to himself as well.[57] Wales warned that this activity should be discouraged because of the potential for bias.[26] He said: "I wish I hadn't done it. It's in poor taste."[19][40]

Bomis earned the nickname "Playboy of the Internet" from The Atlantic.[43] This term subsequently gained currency in media, including The Sunday Times,[44] The Daily Telegraph,[33] MSN Money,[104] Wired,[105] The Torch Magazine,[92] and the book The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen.[45] Wales commented about the term "Playboy of the Internet" and asserted that the characterization was inappropriate.[105]

During interviews with the media Wales had to take queries about his time at Bomis and whether this classifies him as a "porn king".[27][106][107] The 2010 documentary film about Wikipedia, Truth in Numbers?, discussed this characterization of Wales as a "porn king" by journalists.[106][108] Wales stated in Truth in Numbers?: "You know the press has this idea that I am a porn king. I really wasn't a king of anything, frankly, you know? Because at the time, when we looked at it, we were just like, 'Okay, well, this is what our customers will want, let's follow this.'"[108] In later media interviews he responded to questions about the "porn king" characterization by directing journalists to look at a page on the search engine Yahoo! about pornography related to dwarfism.[27] According to Reason he then asserted, "If he was a porn king, he suggests, so is the head of the biggest Web portal in the world."[27]

Analysis[edit]

The Chronicle of Philanthropy characterized Bomis as: "... an Internet marketing firm ... which also traded in erotic photographs for a while."[31] Author Jeff Howe wrote in his book Crowdsourcing that the company was, "one of Wales's less altruistic ventures, a Web portal called Bomis.com that featured, among other items, soft-core pornography."[46] In his book The Future of the Internet—And How to Stop It, legal academic Jonathan Zittrain noted, "Bomis helped people find 'erotic photography', and earned money through advertising as well as subscription fees for premium content."[2] The Guardian classed the site as among "the fringes of the adult entertainment industry".[74] The Edge called the site an "explicit-content search engine".[99] Business 2.0 Magazine described it as: "a search portal ... which created and hosted Web rings around popular search terms - including, not surprisingly, a lot of adult themes."[51]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  4. ^ a b Miller, Nick (April 25, 2007). "The wisdom of one". The Age (Fairfax Media Publications Pty Limited). p. 17. 
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Further reading[edit]

Primary sources

External links[edit]