Wikipedia added its 500,000th article in English last Thursday, with Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union being designated as the milestone article.
In the half-million pool to guess when Wikipedia would cross this threshold, the winner was Llywrch. Nobody managed to pick the correct date, however; Llywrch was the closest, coming within one day by guessing 18 March. The pool was held last June, and another pool for the millionth article was set to close once the half-million mark was reached.
Sj started a press release to send to media outlets publicizing this event. Some even got in on the news without any prodding. In anticipation of the milestone, The Inquirer published an article Thursday entitled "Wikipedia nears half million article mark Archived 2005-03-17 at the Wayback Machine", coming barely a few hours before it was actually reached (The Inquirer also happened to be the first media organization to break the news of Wikipedia's one-millionth article overall last September).
A number of people were busy watching events as Wikipedia's article count approached this milestone, but it was still difficult to pin down the actual 500,000th article. In the end, technical limitations and some miscommunication made it impossible to be completely certain of its identity.
Among those following progress, Alterego was taking periodic snapshots of the article count, from which he determined that Wikipedia had exactly 500,000 articles at 20:54:46 (UTC). Looking at the new article log for 20:54 gave eight possible options: Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union, created by Mikkalai; a group of five articles about Nintendo games written by 126.96.36.199; Keshmirian, a disambiguation page created by 188.8.131.52; and P. J. Abbott, an article started by Hedley.
Alterego concluded that he was unable to break the "tie" between these articles, but Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union was ultimately chosen as the milestone article and mentioned as such in the press release. One way to reach this conclusion would be to treat the eight articles as if they were equally spaced out over the course of a minute, in which case it comes closest to the precise time calculated by Alterego. However, Alterego later pointed out that his snapshots indicated that the articles were added much more closely together.
Attempting to independently reconstruct the logic of the selection, Alterego ruled out the most recent of the Nintendo articles, Milon's Secret Castle, after concluding that it would not have been included as part of the article count. Based on information from Cyrius, Alterego indicated that an article needed to contain a comma and a link in order to be recognized by the article counting feature. Since the original version of Milon's Secret Castle lacked commas, it would be disqualified, making the next-most-recent article, Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union, the most likely candidate.
After checking with the developers, Cyrius said that Alterego had misunderstood the criteria, and clarified that the requirement of a comma or a link was a choice based on a software setting, and in this case the setting was to count based on links. Accordingly, the original version of Milon's Secret Castle did qualify as an article for purposes of the counter.
In any case, Cyrius indicated that according to developer JeLuF, the article counter is wrong anyway. Alterego also determined that there were some inconsistencies in his snapshots, and further speculated that the timestamps on new pages may have been held up due to the load of people trying to get the milestone article. Although realistically a number of candidates might be considered tied for the honor, commenting on the designation of Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union, Alterego said, "I like the sound of that so we can move on."
Moving on certainly could describe the transformation of Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union, which grew considerably after being designated as the 500,000th article. As started by Mikkalai, the article had a couple of paragraphs and a few placeholder sections, along with two links to Wikisource documents. Mikkalai commented, "I didn't expect to get myself in the limelight", and warned not to expect a fully-developed article anytime soon.
However, the article attracted a number of editors and by Sunday had already received nearly 100 edits. As a result, one of the sections in particular, dealing with "Exile settlements", had been significantly expanded. The article also had at least one reference to support the content. Meanwhile, an active discussion had already begun on the talk page over what the sources said about particular ethnic groups.