Can you imagine a world without Wikipedia?

Published: December 15, 2010

The resource may be in danger of financial ruin

“Wikipedia only works in practice. In theory, it’s a total disaster.”

Wikipedia, supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, has accumulated over 17 million articles in 262 languages as well as inspired copycats in Google and Facebook (see Google Knol and Facebook Community Pages). It still, however,  does not have money to keep the site running – nor does it want to charge money or display ads on its websites.

If you’ve been to the Wikipedia website lately, you might have seen a banner at the top of the page that says “Please read: A personal appeal from Wikimedia Executive Director Sue Gardner.”

Wikipedia is one of the web’s hottest properties but it faces the same problem that has been faced by many internet startups: how does one monetise the site? Even commercial websites such as Twitter and the New York Times have had trouble trying to find revenue models for the web.

Wikipedia has opted to start a fund-raising drive hoping to turn more of its 400 million readers into donors. According to Wikimedia’s Gardner:

“We have to raise $8 million more. If all of our readers donated $1, the fundraiser would be over about four hours from now. But not everyone can or will donate, and that’s fine.”

While Britannica and Encarta sell their material on discs or books while having the same amount of “serious errors”, Wikipedia is used free of charge. Most of us will stop using Wikipedia if there is a subscription fee but none of us will be using Wikipedia next year as only half the fundraising goal has been reached with less than 3 weeks of the year remaining.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales’ advice should be heeded:

“If you value Wikipedia as a source of information – and a source of inspiration – I hope you’ll choose to act right now.”

I think this one is a no-brainer: save Wikipedia and donate $1 (approximately Rs85) with your credit card here!

Update: Wikipedia reached its stated goal on January 1, 2011. It will remain ad-free.


Hassan Asif

A sub-editor on the web-desk of The Express Tribune

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

More by this writer

  • Asad Shairani

    This deserved a writeup. Good job.Recommend

  • Umair Kazi

    Although I agree that we should donate for this resource that we all love.. I think the threat is sort of artificial. I bet Wikipedia could avert its financial ruin (and keep it afloat for another year) by running ads for 2-3 days!Recommend

  • Abdul Muqeet

    Probably going to donate via my PayPal, They have helped a lot and without them it was never possible to know that muchRecommend

  • Atika.rehman

    Really liked your blog Hassan! I won’t use Wikipedia as a source when i’m writing a research paper, but i use it nearly everyday. When i say i want to “google it” i usually mean i want to “wiki it”. Great piece.


  • Irfan Ahmed

    I would prefer this bias site go to drain. They hurt the feelings of millions of Muslims by putting Muhammed(P.B.U.H.) picture on their site. Usually they accept complains and let people edit but in this particular case they lock the article for editing. bye bye Wikipedia.Recommend

  • Shueyb Gandapur

    Totally agree. I have used wikipedia extensively for obtaining knowledge. The level of information one finds on wikipedia cannot be found in any other online or printed encyclopedia. It would be just a small token of gratitude and acknowledgement if we make a small donation. Without wikipedia, the world will be much poorer. I have done my part last year and this year and will continue to do so every year. Recommend

  • Amna

    I would not donate. Not because i do not use wikipedia and do not find it resourceful, but because I think there are way too many other places to donate money. People starving and shelterless are a priority to me as far as donating money is concerned.Recommend

  • Mahvesh

    I’d have donated except I’m completely clueless about online payments :( Need to find someone to pay at least $5, if only it’s to annoy peopel like Irfan Ahmed who’d rather ban the internet because it’ll bring in unwanted information.Recommend

  • Asad

    @Mahvesh: I completely agree with you. :)
    As for the payment, just borrow a credit card from a family member. It’s a pretty simple procedure from there on.
    @Amna: Yes, there are indeed many worthwhile causes to donate to. Giving a little to help spread knowledge shouldn’t stop you from helping others. Recommend

  • Pakeezah

    Wikipedia doesn’t carry all the right information. Almost anyone can edit the information which proves that it is in some cases, wrong. So there’s no point in funding that unless the information is checked and approved by the Wikipedia admin. Recommend

  • Raqib Ali

    I think Wikipedia should start putting selective ads (not overdo it).

    Most people only pay when you get the money first. After using the service, only a few generous wants to pay.

    If Wikipedia has a business model that relies on emotional appeals, then let them reap the rewards (I’m not being mean, just pointing that majority wouldn’t care).

    Wikipedia needs to work with Student Unions across the world to do fund raising. Many people only pay when you approach them and facilitate the process.Recommend

  • Shashi

    1 USD = Rs 46 Recommend

  • Shashi

    Sorry, I didn’t realize you were talking about Pakistani Rupee. Please delete previous as well as this comment. Thank you.Recommend

  • zaigham

    no wiki next year?
    but it will leave its legacy in the form of wiki-intellectuals…
    which i believe is quite a horrible legacy…Recommend

  • SirSEO

    Wikipedia a growing public encylopedia of over 4 million articles on subjects on the Internet; registered users may freely edit content of these articles. Great article thanksRecommend

  • waqar shaikh

    Great article Hassan. You accurately mentioned the importance of Wikipedia and its a fact we all should accept that we badly need Wikipedia in all years to come.

    When it comes to donate the main problem lies with Pakistanis are the medium they would use. Wikipedia accepts donation through Credit Card and PayPal account only, and in Pakistan people are un-aware of Paypal and Credit Card is not that common, so many of the dedicated donors from Pakistan are unable to donate even if they would have want to. In my opinion there must be some alternative modes when accepting donation from the whole world.Recommend

  • Raqib Ali

    Wiki will be there next year. It simply cannot fail. Recommend

  • Noor-ul-ain Hanif

    Nice post, good useful site but the option of editing in not gud! any one can edit the answer and most of the times I fond error in it!Recommend

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