Wikipedia is an online, universal, multilingual collective encyclopedia project, operating on the wiki principle, which aims to provide freely reusable, objective and verifiable content. It consists of articles created by the encyclopedia's volunteers and written in an encyclopedic style, which anyone can modify and improve.
This page contains the essentials, and only the essentials, that you need to know in order not to be disappointed by your first experiences with Wikipedia. First, you find a summary of simplified rules; then links to other pages to go further in what you want. Don't worry too much if you don't understand everything at first. And don't hesitate to ask questions. As time goes on, you will learn to be a great contributor to Wikipedia! Good reading!
To go further...
While theoretically anything can be changed, the community so far has been built on certain principles. They have been well thought out and these principles are unlikely to change in the future. They've been worked on by us so far, to give them a fair deal before attempting a radical overhaul or leaving the project.
Five pillars: The foundations of the Wikipedia community are summarized in five simple ideas: Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia; Wikipedia is governed by impartiality; Wikipedia is a free content encyclopedia; Wikipedia has rules of conduct; and Wikipedia has no fixed rules.
Founding Principles: The Wikimedia Foundation, the global organization that oversees Wikipedia and other projects like it, is based on important common ideas such as: The neutral point of view as the main editorial principle; The ability for anyone to edit most articles without having to register; The "wiki process" and decision-making mechanism as the content management system; Creating a friendly and respectable editorial environment; Free licenses for the content; and the Governing Board has ultimate authority over all matters relating to the Wikimedia Foundation.
Copyright: Wikipedia is covered by the following free licenses: Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 and GNU Free Documentation License. Wikipedia content may be used and reused freely as long as attribution is given; it can even be modified and used for profit, since all future users can do the same. All edits must be compliant with Wikipedia's licenses and may not infringe on third-party copyrights, except under very particular conditions.
Ignore all rules: Wikipedia rules are not set in stone. The spirit of the rule trumps the letter of the rule. The common purpose of building an encyclopedia trumps both. This means that any rule can be broken for a very good reason, if it helps to improve the encyclopedia. This doesn't mean that everything can be done just by claiming "Ignore all rules" or that discussion isn't necessary to explain a decision.
Write high quality articles
Neutral Point of View: Write from a neutral, objective, and unbiased point of view. Make a fair representation of the world with reliable sources to describe it. All articles must be balanced to convey an impression of multiple points of view on a subject. Some reviews may receive more attention than others, depending on the attention they receive from reliable sources. Wikipedia has no "opinion" of its own; you simply need reliable sources to synthesize.
Verifiability: Articles should only contain material that has been published by reliable sources, and this is usually done by citing where you found the information. Trustworthy are sources with a reputation