2018 Revenue strategy/Present

The previous essay provided an historical overview of the Wikimedia Foundation's revenue. Before discussing future scenarios, it is helpful to analyze the present situation in the broader landscape of philanthropy.


"Wikipedia is a multilingual online encyclopedia with exclusively free content and no ads (though donations are accepted), based on open collaboration through a model of content editing using web-based applications such as web browsers, called wiki." w:Wikipedia

"The Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (WMF, or simply Wikimedia) is an American non-profit and charitable organization headquartered in San Francisco, California. It is mostly known for participating in the Wikimedia movement. It owns the internet domain names of most movement projects and hosts sites like Wikipedia." w:Wikimedia Foundation

"The Wikimedia movement, or simply Wikimedia, is the global community of contributors to Wikimedia Foundation projects."w:Wikimedia

"The Wikimedia Foundation is the nonprofit that hosts Wikipedia and our other free knowledge projects."[1]

"a space on the Internet where people can have mostly sane, mostly productive conversations that mostly converge to a version of the truth." [2]

"The poster child of collaboration"[3]

"To many people, Wikipedia is a shining beacon of the original promise of the web. Gardner goes as far to say that it's the "embodiment of the best aspects of the web"."[3]

Philanthropic model of the Wikimedia FoundationEdit

  • Non-distribution constraint[4]
  • donative financing model[5]
  • contract failure[6]
  • Reserves and endowments

Adapting the philanthropic modelEdit

why; how; what to look out for

Nothing about Wikipedia mandates it to be a nonprofit enterprise. In fact, during its first few years of existence, it was hosted by a for-profit company, Bomis, but it was not generating any revenue. As Wikipedia's success was a drain on Bomis's resources, it appeared that traditional revenue models like advertising would not be a likely option to make it profitable, as evidenced by the Spanish fork of 2002. Jimmy Wales therefore founded the Wikimedia Foundation to transition to a financing model based on philanthropy.

One could imagine an alternative reality in which Bomis continued to host Wikipedia and funded it through ads; or one where Bomis continued to host Wikipedia and funded it through other models, like brand partnerships; or one where the Wikimedia Foundation hosted Wikipedia and funded it through ads.

This isn't to say that the current situation, where the Wikimedia Foundation is hosting Wikipedia and funding it entirely through donations, sans ads, is unsuitable. The point is that the current situation is but one of several possible combinations of legal entities and financing models. The financing model of the organization hosting the websites is only relevant to the extent of the control that that organization exerts over them. The provenance of the funds is not the primary concern, as long as the financing model does not impact the independence or sustainability of Wikimedia communities.

  • Revenue mixes and hybridity
  • earned income and commercial revenue
  • New models


  1. "About". Wikimedia Foundation (in en-US). 2018-05-30. Retrieved 2019-05-15. 
  2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/10/25/somethings-terribly-wrong-with-the-internet-and-wikipedia-might-be-able-to-fix-it/
  3. a b Solon, Olivia (2011-01-11). "A Decade Of Wikipedia, The Poster Child For Collaboration". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2019-05-14. 
  4. Hansmann 1980, p. ?
  5. Hansmann 1980, p. ?
  6. Hansmann 1980, p. ?