Wikipedia, the one stop shop for all our school projects and assignments has a simple but unique business model. Appearing at the top in almost all the searches, it is the world’s largest encyclopedia and one of the most visited websites.
Founded by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger in January 2001, Wikipedia publishes in close to 300 languages. It is supported by Wikimedia foundation, a non-profit organization headquartered in California which owns many other free content websites with the aim to create a huge knowledge database which is accessible free of charge. Volunteers all over the world create, verify and edit the content on a regular basis for free. Thus, the organization’s only job is the administration of the website and the server.
The other websites run by the foundation are MediaWiki, Meta-Wiki, Wikidata, Wikinews, Wikiquote, Wikibooks, Wikimedia commons, Wikisource, Wikispecies, Wiktionary, Wikiversity and Wikivoyage.
Wikimedia Foundation’s servers are located in 5 locations- Virginia, Texas and San Francisco in the United States, Amsterdam in Europe and Singapore in Asia.
The aim is not to earn a profit. But funds are needed to meet all the administrative costs related to the website. For the year 2017-18 it reported a revenue of $ 103 million. But where does all this money come from?
Wikipedia operates on a donation-based model, i.e. donations made by millions of individuals and corporations are its major source of revenue. The organization claims that the donation is tax deductible which encourages people to donate. Apart from this it indulges into fundraising activities and receives grants for its administrative expenses at times.
But did you know that Wikipedia has its own online store as well where it sells its own merchandise? Quite sure you didn’t. This too adds to the overall revenue of the organization.
This donation-based model definitely makes us wonder- for how long will Wikipedia be able to sustain itself? Also, with increasing access to smartphones and internet, the number of content creators is rising rapidly which is putting Wikipedia’s popularity at risk.
To deal with these existential threats, Wikipedia launched a global discussion called Wikimedia 2030. It is charting out plans to adapt to the technological changes while fulfilling its mission of providing free knowledge for all
The next time you visit the website, try and notice a pop-up message that requests you to donate to the organization. The least we can do is to donate the meagre amount it asks for. Afterall, most of us have exploited its content at least once, haven’t we?