International Wikimedia Conference Opens in Haifa

Washington, Aug. 4 - Around 650 internet activists from 52 countries are gathering in the northern Israeli city of Haifa today for a three-day conference to discuss the future of Wikimedia, the umbrella group of the wildly popular user-created web portals.

Wikimedia encompasses both the hugely popular free online encyclopedia Wikipedia as well as dozens of other sites managed by the Wikimedia foundation. "Wikimania" starts today (Aug. 4) in a city that has become synonymous with Israel's diversity. Haifa has a significant population of Arab residents, living peacefully side-by-side with Jewish, Christian and Baha'i residents.

"I was born in Haifa, and I think it's a great city to show what the Middle East should be like, with all religions living and working together," Israeli lawyer Deror Lin was quoted as saying in a Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release about the event. Lin, who is heavily involved in the Wikimedia Israel group, was largely responsible for organizing and bringing the conference to Haifa.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is attending the gathering and will deliver his annual "State of the Wiki" address to attendees.

Wikimedia activists will discuss a variety of pressing issues, including current projects, open software and the state of free information on the internet.

Wikimania is slated to be held in Washington, D.C. in 2012. In past years, the conference took place in Poland, Egypt, Argentina, Taiwan and Germany.

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