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Thursday, February 28, 2008
Encyclopedia of Life Goes Online

An online edition of an unprecedented Encyclopedia of Life was unveiled Wednesday as part of an ambitious project to catalogue the 1.8 million species known on Earth.

The first pages were unofficially made available on the Internet at www.eol.org a day earlier, encountering such fierce demand that overwhelmed computer servers crashed for about two hours.

The encyclopedia was then unveiled at the prestigious Technology, Entertainment and Design gathering in California, and despite being offline for a time, the aspiring catalogue of Earth's precious biodiversity logged more than 11 million hits in its first six hours.

Consolidating the information about the planet's 1.8 million species in a single place is unprecedented. The creators of the project believe that it will take a decade to complete.

Later this year EOL will let people contribute pictures, video, facts or other content to the website "wiki-style."

The encyclopedia's creators predict its uses will include tracking how diseases spread and determining how creatures and plants adapt or succumb to climate changes.

Along with the support of major US universities, philanthropic foundations and biology institutes, EOL is getting backing from technology giants Adobe, Microsoft and the Wikimedia Foundation.

Web design firm Avenue A/Razorfish crafted the basic template for the EOL species pages.

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