May 26, 2022

22 Million Images: Wikimedia Commons Turns 10 Years Old Today

A wonderful and important project! Congrats!

Here’s a Portion of a Blog Post from the Wikipedia Foundation:

Wikimedia Commons is one of the world’s largest resources of freely licensed educational media. It is the central repository of the majority of illustrations for Wikipedia, and it includes more than 22 million images of everything from the first human flight to the last of the quaggas. Historical treasures, like an 8th century Chinese star map, can be found alongside the most recent stars of the annual Eurovision song contest.

You can find the images on Commons illustrating the articles on Wikipedia, as the photographs in your newspapers, and as diagrams in your school projects. They are always freely licensed, and include the contributions of individual amateur photographers alongside donations from the collections of the world’s leading archives.


Over ten years, four million registered users have uploaded the images and other media, curated licensing and attribution information, created categories, organized metadata, and removed non-educational content or images that are not freely licensed.[1] In addition to their work on-wiki, these volunteers have inspired partnerships with leading cultural institutions in order to make even more images and media available to the world.

The very first photograph uploaded to Wikimedia Commons (“Quail1.PNG “ by Node, today under CC-BY-SA-3.0)The very first photograph uploaded to Wikimedia Commons ("Quail1.PNG " by Node, under CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Wikimedia Commons officially launched on September 7th, 2004, with an informal email to a Wikimedia mailing list. The note, which pointed users to, expressed a vague hope that someday the project would “get[s] its own domain.” (We’re happy to say that it’s still right there!) That same day, user:Node_ue uploaded the very first photograph, a snapshot of two wild Gambel’s quail, taken while they “happen[ed] to be eating birdseed in my parents’ backyard.”

The creation of Commons had been suggested by then-volunteer Wikimedian Erik Moeller (today the deputy director of the Wikimedia Foundation). His initial March 2004 proposal for a central repository for images, public domain texts, and other freely licensed documents expressed the hope that Commons could “provide the largest such repository of freely licensed material, with a quality control mechanism” — the Wikimedia community itself – “that other projects lack.”

(1) In doing so, Wikimedia Commons volunteers have become well acquainted with the intricacies of international copyright law (did you know that users have researched and documented the “freedom of panorama” regulations for 147 countries on Commons?). The Commons’ community’s careful curation of images is evidenced by the extremely low number of copyright takedown requests received by the Foundation each year, as documented in our recently released transparency report.

Read the Complete Blog Post

More From the Wikimedia Foundation:

Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Lila Tretikov said: “Many people don’t know that the incredible, freely-licensed images that illustrate Wikipedia are curated and maintained by the volunteer community of Wikimedia Commons editors. Wikimedia Commons is the visual engine of the Wikimedia projects, and we look forward to its next decade of contributions, collaboration, and sharing.”

In the past ten years, creators have contributed to Commons in a variety of ways, including the annual Wiki Loves Monuments contest, which is currently inviting submissions through the end of September. The Guinness Book of World Records named Wiki Loves Monuments the largest photo contest in the world, and it has inspired more 900,000 image uploads since 2010.

On this occasion we also celebrate the partnerships with dozens of cultural institutions (GLAM) from around the world that have donated portions of their collections. Their contributions have allowed Wikimedia Commons to become a vital resource for educational and historical content, and ensured the increasing depth and richness of the illustrations for articles on Wikipedia.

“The Wikimedia Commons community is the reason these freely-licensed images exist for everyone to enjoy.” said [Erik] Moeller. “Our next steps are to prepare Wikimedia Commons for the future, including support for rich, structured metadata; a massively improved user experience for uploading media; better tools for editing media content through the web; and better support for video. The first decade was just the beginning.”

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.