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Byline: Richard Mullins
Oct. 18--ST. PETERSBURG -- Can an online encyclopedia succeed if anyone in the world can make entries and edit them whenever they please? Absolutely, if the measure of success is popularity rather than strict accuracy.
In the past few months, the St. Petersburg-based online encyclopedia Wikipedia.org has exploded in popularity and become one of the most-visited Internet destinations, with more than 2 billion page hits a month -- more than many multi national corporations receive.
And Wikipedia has done it while remaining a not-for-profit group, without taking advertising or succumbing to offers from venture capitalists to transform one of the most popular sites on the Internet into a money maker.
"We constantly get calls from people trying to advertise or sell things on the site," said Jimmy Wales, 39, a former financial trader in Chicago and founder of Wikipedia. "It's very tempting, but on the other hand, we want this to be free and get across the idea that this is not part of a corporation."
The bottom line is that Wales thinks Wikipedia can continue to operate as …