February 10, 2007

Wikipedia is NOT going to "shut within 3-4 months"

Regarding the Wikipedia fundraising scare, actual numbers below.

It's not going to do any good, but I already wrote most of the debunking of the following anyway, so I might as well make a quick blog post of it.

The following "citizen journalism" has set off the predictable rounds of ECHO ECHO ECHO! DID YOU HEAR? DID YOU HEAR? LINK, LINK, LINK ...


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". The warning by Florence Devouard, chairwoman of the Wikimedia Foundation was certainly dire, and Lift07 was as good a venue to make an appeal.


"To keep it up this year they will need at least 5 million USD - a recent fundraising drive raised 1 million, with an average donation of 20 USD. Wikipedia has currently enough cash to pay the bills for three months."

God forbid the supposed last best hope of the New Era, bogosphere, should in the main stop echoing for a moment, and do some actual fact-gathering. Assuming the quote is accurate, those figures sound like at best, she's talking about something else, given the numbers reported here:


"The audit also found that the Foundation raised nearly $1.3 million through contributions in 2006, an increase from the $300,000 raised in 2005 and the $70,000 raised in 2004. Despite the increasing income, expenses also jumped markedly: internet hosting costs rose from $40,000 in 2005 to nearly $200,000 in 2006, and operating costs increased by almost three times from 2005 to 2006. Depreciation of computer software and equipment cost the Foundation nearly $150,000 in 2006. The auditors also noted that this equipment is currently being depreciated based on a 5-year useful life, and recommended that this be changed to a more standard 3-year period. Since expenses overall were less than the income, the Foundation increased its total assets each fiscal year, going from about $300,000 in 2005 to $1,000,000 in 2006."

But, as the saying goes, the person who has to explain mathematics, loses.

I sent the Wikimedia foundation a press inquiry about the above. But it's the weekend, and unlike the rest of us, I assume they have lives.

[Update: For all the details, see the financial statement, particularly page 5]

[Update 2/11 - Clarification are being done:


Florence made it very clear that Wikipedia would NOT shut down in the next 3 months.


Devouard did not say that Wikipedia is going to shut down, nor used the word "disappear" during her speech.

The $5 million seems to have been about expansion plans, see http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/What_we_need_the_money_for


By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikipedia | on February 10, 2007 05:42 PM (Infothought permalink)
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You can get into britannica.com for free with a netpass from: http://news.congoo.com

It also gets you into wall street journal, mornignstar and those other subscription sites for free. I thought this was a good tip.

Posted by: Robin Davis at February 10, 2007 06:28 PM

Behold the power of the ignorant masses! And people complain about *Wikipedia's* reliability...

Anyway, yes, the project is not going to shut down in four months. What Devouard means is that four months goes fast, and they need a lot more money, soon, before they can think about future plans; 2008 and beyond, and the ongoing need for expansion and desire for new projects.

Posted by: Anonymous at February 10, 2007 07:26 PM

I'd had a look at their 501C3 tax forms, and found that $40,000 figure for web hosting very hard to believe. $200,000 sounds a lot more like it. But I still don't understand how the 2005 figure could be $40,000. Was it maybe an accounting mistake?

Posted by: Kathryn Cramer at February 11, 2007 09:24 AM

Kathryn: It's fiscal 2005, which is mid-2004 to mid-2005. I think the explanation is that Wikipedia wasn't as prominent then, and the hosting was not a huge expense.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at February 11, 2007 01:51 PM