Wikimedia Foundation is over halfway through a fundraiser. I hope that when you give you leave the following public comment:
I support advertising on Wikipedia.
Evan Prodromou summarizes a completely unwarranted controversy regarding a matching fund (bottom of page):
All fine so far, right? But a small logo in the donations notice — seen by non-logged-in users on every page of every WMF site — was considered by many Wikipedians and other WMF editors as dangerously close to the line on advertising — or over it. There have been several prominent users who have left the project because of it.
I’m not sympathetic with these folks; in fact, I’m in solid opposition. I think that Wikipedia’s huge amount of Web traffic is a resource that the Foundation is squandering. Traffic like Wikipedia’s is worth tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars in ad revenue per year. That’s money that could go to disseminate free (libre and gratis) paperback pocket encyclopedias to millions of schools and millions of children, in their own language, around the world.
It’s irresponsible to abuse that opportunity.
I strongly agree and will repeat exactly what I said during last year’s Wikimedia fund drive:
Wikipedia chief considers taking ads (via Boing Boing) says that at current traffic levels, Wikipedia could generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year by running ads. There are strong objections to running ads from the community, but that is a staggering number for a tiny nonprofit, an annual amount that would be surpassed only by the wealthiest foundations. It could fund a staggering Wikimedia Foundation bureaucracy, or it could fund additional free knowledge projects. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has asked what will be free. Would an annual hundred million dollar budget increase the odds of those predictions? One way to find out before actually trying.
In somewhat related news, Mozilla just reported 2005 financial information, showing 800% revenue growth:
In 2005 the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation combined had revenue from all sources of $52.9M. $29.8M of this was associated with the Foundation (both before and after the creation of the Corporation). The bulk of this revenue was related to our search engine relationships, with the remainder coming from a combination of contributions, sales from the Mozilla store, interest income, and other sources. These figures compare with 2003 and 2004 revenues of $2.4M and $5.8M respectively, and reflect the tremendous growth in the popularity of Firefox after its launch in November 2004.
The combined expenses of the Mozilla Foundation and Corporation were approximately $8.2M in 2005, of which approximately $3M was associated with the Foundation. By far the biggest portion of these expenses went to support the large and growing group of people dedicated to creating and promoting Firefox, Thunderbird, and other Mozilla open source products and technologies. The rate of expenses increased over the year as new employees came on board. The unspent revenue provides a reserve fund that allows the Mozilla Foundation flexibility and long term stability.
An advertising-fueled Wikimedia Foundation could fund dozens of much needed Mozilla Firefox sized projects. And many Creative Commons (which just successfully completed its much more modest annual funding campaign) initiatives. :)
Update: Welcome Slashdot readers. The major objection to ads on Wikipedia takes two forms:
- Advertising is profane.
- Advertising would compromose Wikipedia’s neutrality.
A common response to the first is that those who don’t like ads can run an ad blocker. Easier still, those who don’t like ads can log in — there’s little reason to display ads to logged in users, who probably generate a tiny fraction of pageviews. But I don’t think either of these responses will satisfy this form of the objection, as it is basically emotional. Some people object to the knowledge that ads exist, even if not experienced personally. I suppose these people don’t use search engines. It’s a wonder they can stand to use the net at all. I discount them completely.
The second is completely unrealistic. How would third party text ads, e.g., via AdSense, compromise neutrality? There’s simply no vector for an advertiser to demand changes and zero reason for Wikipedians to comply. Wikipedia is not a small town newspaper beholden to the local department store, not even close. It isn’t even Slashdot, which as far as I can tell has not been compromised by years of running ads. To people with this objection: show me a community site that has gone astray due to advertiser influence.
Sponsors, “being managed by Wikipedia staff (like in newspaper ads, i.e. no uncontrolled 3rd party feeds)”, as suggested by Kuba Ober, are far more dangerous than third party ads, because then there is a vector between advertiser and someone with power at Wikipedia.
There may be an opportunity for Wikipedia to completely rethink and remake advertising, or merely compete in some fashion with what some are calling Google’s near monopoly, but now it would make tremendous sense to use AdSense or Yahoo! or both — and I suspect Wikipedia could manage to keep a greater share of revenue than a normal web publisher. Rick Yorgason mocked up what AdSense would look like in the place of the current fundraiser’s donation banner.
- Wikipedia’s philosophy is non-commercial
- Ads put at risk Wikipedia’s principle of Neutral Point of View (NPOV)
- The information that constitutes Wikipedia is wealth for the community
I don’t see “non-commercial” in any form on the Wikimedia Foundation home page. I do see this, in large text:
Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That’s our commitment.
The next line, all bold, asks for help in the form of donations.
Much more money, hundreds of millions, would speed the arrival of that world and fulfillment of that commitment.
As above, there is no realistic scenario for ads undermining neutrality on Wikipedia.
The third objection strikes me as a non-sequitur. In any case, the point of obtaining more resources would be to increase the wealth of the community — of all human beings.
jklooserman also pointed out that there’s a category of Wikipedians who think that the Wikimedia Foundation should use advertising. Add it to your user page if you agree.