There's some articles out in the blogosphere right now quoting a speech given by Florence Devouard at the Lift '07 Conference in Geneva last week. Florence Devouard is the chairwoman of the Wikimedia Foundation which runs the non-profit Wikipedia. What has sparked a lot of buzz is what she said about Wikimedia's funding, that basically, one could summarize that Wikimedia is in pretty dire straights.
“At this point, Wikipedia has the financial resources to run its servers for about 3 to 4 months. If we do not find additional funding, it is not impossible that Wikipedia might disappear”.
Now that stated, Wikimedia's had to do some back pedaling on what was actually stated in the speech. Sandra Ordonez, Wikimedia's communications director has been doing "cleanup" and posting on blogs that have the piece from Devouard's speech with the following:
So, with that stated, I opted to do a little digging, especially in light of the news that they just raised over a million dollars (US) in the past few weeks. Also, although not directly relevant is the fact that Wikia,Inc., the for profit "sister" of Wikimedia, just raised $4 million in capital from Bessemer Venture Partners last year. I just kept wondering, how in the world could Wikimedia be in that dire of straights?
The issue at the root of the cash crunch at Wikimedia Foundation, is its growing popularity. Its growing popularity means, the need for more hardware (servers, etc.) and higher hosting fees for the network sites, since Wikipedia is now in several languages. Last year alone the Wikimedia Foundation had to shell out close to $190,000 in hosting fees. I thought perhaps that this could be one of those foundations that pay their directors exorbitantly, but not the case here at all, salaries and wages were just over $107,000. So if they have a tech person or two, plus their director and their communications director, that $107,000 is a pretty decent amount for their staff.
I then went from their financial statements to look at who their publicized benefactors were, from which in 2006 they received just over $1.3 million in contributions. There's not too many "big" names on there. Yahoo! does contribute with help with their servers in China, Dell with discounted equipment, and Answers.com created their "1 Click Answers - Wikipedia Edition" software.
But then I saw one company, in particular that jumped out at me, on the $1,000 to $4999.99 category - Wikia, Inc. So I guess Wikimedia Foundation expects the general public to believe they are in these dire straights, without absolutely no one to help, so that the general public will just open their wallets and donate.
Me, I'm a bit more skeptical and less believing of speeches and hype. Do you really believe that Wikia, Inc. would let Wikipedia - it's flagship "sister" site - close? I don't doubt the the venture funding folks took a look at Wikipedia and that was one of their major reasons for investing that $4 million in Wikia, Inc. If Wikipedia closed, just how would that look for Wikia, Inc. and their chances for future funding?