Wikipedia, which normally seeks user donations at the end of the year, has started soliciting donations mid-year in 2012 under a ‘special fundraiser’ campaign.
The website, founded by Jimmy Wales more than ten years ago, ranks number five in terms of traffic on the Internet.
Despite its potential to earn millions, possibly billions of dollars every year through advertising, Wales and his team have resisted the idea of putting ads on the site.
In a ‘personal appeal’, Wales explained his reason.
“Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park. It is like a temple for the mind. It is a place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others.
When I founded Wikipedia, I could have made it into a for-profit company with advertising banners, but I decided to do something different,” he said.
Wales is considered a rather odd businessman, if even that, by many. He founded Wikipedia on the assumption that people would contribute their labor and create articles on virtually everything under the sun for the sheer love of doing so, and sharing knowledge.
The success of his venture has not only flummoxed his critics, but also thrown into question basic assumptions about how what motivates people, how economics and trade work, and what exactly is a ‘business’.
“Commerce is fine. Advertising is not evil. But it doesn’t belong here. Not in Wikipedia,” he said in his message exhibited on the website.
Wales pointed out that he was not asking for donations mid-way through the year because Wikipedia has been less than prudent with cash, and gave numbers to prove that Wikipedia is still among the leanest operations in the Internet economy.
“We’ve worked hard over the years to keep it lean and tight. We fulfill our mission, and leave waste to others..
“Wikipedia is the #5 site on the web and serves 470 million different people every month – with billions of page views … Google might have close to a million servers. Yahoo has something like 13,000 staff. We have 679 servers and around 100 staff,” he pointed out.
Targeting users in India, Wales pointed out that if everyone reading his message donated Rs 100 ($2), Wikipedia would only have to fundraise for one day a year.
“But not everyone can or will donate. And that’s fine. Each year just enough people decide to give,” he noted.
“This year, please consider making a donation of Rs 100, Rs 200, Rs 300 or whatever you can to protect and sustain Wikipedia,” he said.
India, despite being a ‘poor’ country, is home a large number of technology-volunteers, including free-software developers, Wiki-maintainers and donors. It is not clear if the campaign has been launched across the world or only in select countries.
Donations can be made at https://donate.wikipedia.org/