Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (WMF, or simply Wikimedia) is an American non-profit and charitable organization headquartered in San Francisco, California.[6] It is mostly known for participating in the Wikimedia movement. It owns the internet domain names of most movement projects and hosts sites like Wikipedia. The foundation was founded in 2003 by Jimmy Wales as a way to fund Wikipedia and its sibling projects through non-profit means.[7][8]

As of 2017, the foundation employs over 300 people, with annual revenues in excess of US$109.9 million.[9] María Sefidari is chair of the board.[3] Katherine Maher has been the executive director since March 2016.

Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
Wikimedia Foundation logo - vertical
FoundedJune 20, 2003
St. Petersburg, Florida, U.S.
FounderJimmy Wales
Type501(c)(3), charitable organization
FocusFree, open-content, wiki-based Internet projects
Area served
ProductsWikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikimedia Commons, Wikidata, Wikiquote, Wikibooks, Wikisource, Wikispecies, Wikinews, Wikiversity, Wikivoyage, MediaWiki
Key people
María Sefidari (Chair of the board)[3]
Katherine Maher (Executive director)
  • Negative increase US$ 69.1 million (2017)
  • 66 million (2016)[4]
Endowment (2016–2017)US $113,330,197
~300 staff/contractors (as of August 8, 2018)[5]


The Wikimedia Foundation has the stated goal of developing and maintaining open content, wiki-based projects and providing the full contents of those projects to the public free of charge.[10] Another main objective of the Wikimedia Foundation is political advocacy.[11]

The Wikimedia Foundation was granted section 501(c)(3) status by the U.S. Internal Revenue Code as a public charity in 2005.[12] Its National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) code is B60 (Adult, Continuing education).[13][14] The foundation's by-laws declare a statement of purpose of collecting and developing educational content and to disseminate it effectively and globally.[15]


In 2001, Jimmy Wales, an Internet entrepreneur, and Larry Sanger, an online community organizer and philosophy professor, founded Wikipedia as an Internet encyclopedia to supplement Nupedia. The project was originally funded by Bomis, Jimmy Wales's for-profit business. As Wikipedia's popularity increased, revenues to fund the project stalled.[7] Since Wikipedia was depleting Bomis's resources, Wales and Sanger thought of a charity model to fund the project.[7] The Wikimedia Foundation was incorporated in Florida on June 20, 2003.[8][16] It applied to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to trademark Wikipedia on September 14, 2004. The mark was granted registration status on January 10, 2006. Trademark protection was accorded by Japan on December 16, 2004, and, in the European Union, on January 20, 2005. There were plans to license the use of the Wikipedia trademark for some products, such as books or DVDs.[17]

The name "Wikimedia", a compound of wiki and media, was coined by American author Sheldon Rampton in a post to the English mailing list in March 2003,[18] three months after Wiktionary became the second wiki-based project hosted on Wales' platform.

In April 2005, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service approved the foundation as an educational foundation in the category "Adult, Continuing education", meaning all contributions to the foundation are tax-deductible for U.S. federal income tax purposes.

On December 11, 2006, the foundation's board noted that the corporation could not become the membership organization initially planned but never implemented due to an inability to meet the registration requirements of Florida statutory law. Accordingly, the by-laws were amended to remove all reference to membership rights and activities. The decision to change the bylaws was passed by the board unanimously.[19][8]

On September 25, 2007, the foundation's board gave notice that the operations would be moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. Major considerations cited for choosing San Francisco were proximity to like-minded organizations and potential partners, a better talent pool, as well as cheaper and more convenient international travel than is available from St. Petersburg, Florida.[20][21][22] The move from Florida was completed by 31 January 2008 with the headquarters on Stillman Street in San Francisco.[23]

In 2009, the Wikimedia Foundation's headquarters moved to New Montgomery Street.

Lila Tretikov was appointed executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation in May 2014.[24][25] She resigned in March 2016. Former chief communications officer Katherine Maher was appointed the interim executive director, a position made permanent in June 2016.

In October 2017, the headquarters moved to One Montgomery Tower.[26]

Projects and initiatives

Wikimedia projects

Content on most Wikimedia Foundation websites is licensed for redistribution under v3.0 of the Attribution and Share-alike Creative Commons licenses. This content is sourced from contributing volunteers and from resources with few or no copyright restrictions, such as copyleft material and works in the public domain.

Content projects

In addition to Wikipedia, the foundation operates eleven other wikis that follow the free content model with their main goal being the dissemination of knowledge. These include, by launch date:

Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Name: Wikipedia
Description: online encyclopedia
Launched: January 15, 2001
Editions: more than 290 in over 250 languages
Alexa rank: 5 (Global, February 2019)[27]
Wiktionary-logo.svg Name: Wiktionary
Description: online dictionary and thesaurus
Launched: December 12, 2002
Editions: more than 170 languages and in Simple English
Alexa rank: 448 (Global, February 2019)[28]
Wikibooks-logo.svg Name: Wikibooks
Description: collection of textbooks
Launched: July 10, 2003
Alexa rank: 1,937 (Global, February 2019)[29]
Wikiquote-logo.svg Name: Wikiquote
Description: collection of quotations
Launched: July 10, 2003
Alexa rank: 3,877 (Global, February 2019)[30]
Wikivoyage-logo.svg Name: Wikivoyage
Description: travel guide
Launched: July 2003 as Wikitravel
Forked: December 10, 2006 (German language)
Re-launched: January 15, 2013 by WMF in English language
Alexa rank: 16,653 (Global, February 2019)[31]
Wikisource-logo.svg Name: Wikisource
Description: digital library
Launched: November 24, 2003
Alexa rank: 2,793 (Global, February 2019)[32]
Commons-logo.svg Name: Wikimedia Commons
Description: repository of images, sounds, videos, and general media
Launched: September 7, 2004
Wikispecies-logo.svg Name: Wikispecies
Description: taxonomic catalogue of species
Launched: September 14, 2004
Wikinews-logo.svg Name: Wikinews
Description: online newspaper
Launched: November 8, 2004
Alexa rank: 59,184 (Global, February 2019)[33]
Wikiversity-logo.svg Name: Wikiversity
Description: collection of tutorials and courses, while also serving as a hosting point to coordinate research
Launched: August 15, 2006
Alexa rank: 10,513 (Global, February 2019)[34]
Wikidata-logo.svg Name: Wikidata
Description: knowledge base
Launched: October 30, 2012
Alexa rank: 9,195 (Global, February 2019)[35]

Infrastructure and coordination projects

Several additional projects exist to provide infrastructure or coordination of the free knowledge projects. For instance, Outreach gives guidelines for best practices on encouraging the use of Wikimedia sites. These include:

Wikimedia Community Logo.svg Name: Meta-Wiki
Description: central site for coordinating all projects and the Wikimedia community
Incubator-logo.svg Name: Wikimedia Incubator
Description: for language editions in development
MediaWiki-notext.svg Name: MediaWiki
Description: helps coordinate work on MediaWiki software
Wikitech logo.svg Name: Wikitech
Alias: Wikimedia Cloud Services (WMCS), formerly known as "Wikimedia Labs"
Description: technical projects and infrastructure

Movement affiliates

Wikimedia movement affiliates are independent, but formally recognized, groups of people intended to work together to support and contribute to the Wikimedia movement. The Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees has approved three active models for movement affiliates: chapters, thematic organizations, and user groups. Movement affiliates are intended to organize and engage in activities to support and contribute to the Wikimedia movement, such as regional conferences, outreach, edit-a-thons, hackathons, public relations, public policy advocacy, GLAM engagement, and Wikimania.[36][37][38]

Recognition of a chapter and thematic organization is approved by the foundation's board. Recommendations on recognition of chapters and thematic organizations are made to the foundation's board by an Affiliations Committee, composed of Wikimedia community volunteers. The Affiliations Committee approves the recognition of individual user groups. While movement affiliates are formally recognized by the Wikimedia Foundation, they are independent of the Wikimedia Foundation, with no legal control of nor responsibility for the Wikimedia projects.[37][38][39]

The foundation began recognizing chapters in 2004.[40] In 2010, development on additional models began. In 2012, the foundation approved, finalized, and adopted the thematic organization and user group recognition models. An additional model, movement partners, was also approved but as of 27 October 2015 has not yet been finalized or adopted.[36][38][41]


Each year, an international conference called Wikimania brings the people together who are involved in the Wikimedia organizations and projects. The first Wikimania was held in Frankfurt, Germany, in 2005. Nowadays, Wikimania is organized by a committee supported usually by the national chapter, in collaboration with the Wikimedia Foundation. Wikimania has been held in cities such as Buenos Aires,[42] Cambridge,[43] Haifa,[44] Hong Kong,[45] and London.[46] In 2015, Wikimania took place in Mexico City,[47] in 2016 in Esino Lario, Italy,[48] 2017 in Montreal, and in 2018 in Cape Town.

Strategic plan

Video explaining the 2011 Wikimedia Strategic Plan
Katherine Maher
Executive director Katherine Maher, 2016

In response to the growing size and popularity of Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation announced a Strategic Plan to improve and sustain the Wikimedia movement. The plan was announced in July 2009, followed by a process of interviews and surveys with people from across the Wikimedia movement, including board of trustees, members of staff and volunteer editors.[49] The ongoing plan was intended to be the basis of a five-year plan to further outreach, improve content quality and quality control, and optimising operational areas such as finance and infrastructure.[50]

Wikipedia Usability Initiative

In December 2008, the Wikimedia Foundation announced a restricted donation grant of US$890,000 from the Stanton Foundation, to improve Wikipedia's accessibility.[51] Later named the Wikipedia Usability Initiative, the grant was used by the Wikimedia Foundation to appoint project-specific staff to the technology department.[52]

A series of surveys were conducted throughout 2009. This began with a qualitative environment survey on MediaWiki extensions, followed by a Qualitative Statistical Survey focusing on volume of edits, number of new users, and related statistics. In March 2009, a usability and experience study was carried out on new and non-editors of the English Wikipedia. The aim was to discover what obstacles participants encountered while editing Wikipedia, ranging from small changes to more complicated syntax such as templates. The study recruited 2500 people for in-person laboratory testing via the Wikipedia website, which was filtered down to ten participants. The results were collated and used by the technology team to improve Wikipedia's usability.[53] The Usability and Experience Study was followed up by the Usability, Experience and Progress Study in September 2009. This study recruited different new and non-editors for in-person trials on a new Wikipedia skin.[54]

The initiative ultimately culminated in a new Wikipedia skin named Vector, constructed based on the results of the usability studies. This was introduced by default in stages, beginning in May 2010.[55]

Public Policy Initiative

In May 2010, the Wikimedia Foundation announced the Public Policy Initiative, following a US$1.2 million donation by the Stanton Foundation. The initiative was set up to improve articles relating to public policy issues.[56] As part of the initiative, Wikipedia collaborated with ten universities to help students and professors create and maintain articles relating to public policy.[57] Volunteer editors of Wikipedia, known as "ambassadors", provided assistance to students and professors. This was either done on campus sites or online.[58]

In April 2017, the foundation was one of the founding partners in the Initiative for Open Citations.[59]


The foundation employs technology including hardware and software to run its projects.


Wikipedia webrequest flow 2015-10
Overview of system architecture, October 2015. See server layout diagrams on Meta-Wiki.
Wikimedia Foundation Servers-8055 13
Wikimedia Foundation servers

Wikipedia employed a single server until 2004, when the server setup was expanded into a distributed multitier architecture.[60]

In January 2005, the project ran on 39 dedicated servers in Florida.[61] This configuration included a single master database server running MySQL, multiple database servers, 21 web servers running the Apache HTTP Server, and seven Squid cache servers.

By December 2009, Wikimedia ran on co-located servers, with 300 servers in Florida and 44 in Amsterdam.[62] Since 2008, it also switched from multiple different Linux operating system vendors to Ubuntu Linux.[63][64]

By January 2013, Wikimedia transitioned to newer infrastructure an Equinix facility in Ashburn, Virginia; citing reasons of "more reliable connectivity" and "fewer hurricanes".[65][66] In years prior, the hurricane seasons had been cause of distress.[61]

In October 2013, Wikimedia Foundation started looking for a second facility that would be used side-by-side with the main facility in Ashburn, citing reasons of redundancy (e.g. emergency fallback) and to prepare for simultaneous multi-datacentre service.[67][68] This follows the year in which a fiber cut caused the Wikimedia projects to be unavailable for one hour in August 2012.[69][70]

Apart from the second facility for redundancy coming online in 2014,[71][72] the number of servers needed to run the infrastructure in a single facility has been mostly stable since 2009. As of November 2015, the main facility in Ashburn hosts 520 servers in total, which includes servers for newer services besides Wikimedia project wikis, such as Cloud Services (Toolforge), and various services for metrics, monitoring, and other system administration.[73]


The operation of Wikimedia depends on MediaWiki, a custom-made, free and open-source wiki software platform written in PHP and built upon the MariaDB database since 2013,[74] previously was using MySQL database.[75] The software incorporates programming features such as a macro language, variables, a transclusion system for templates, and URL redirection. MediaWiki is licensed under the GNU General Public License and it is used by all Wikimedia projects, as well as many other wiki projects.

Originally, Wikipedia ran on UseModWiki written in Perl by Clifford Adams (Phase I), which initially required CamelCase for article hyperlinks; the present double bracket style was incorporated later. Starting in January 2002 (Phase II), Wikipedia began running on a PHP wiki engine with a MySQL database; this software was custom-made for Wikipedia by Magnus Manske. The Phase II software was repeatedly modified to accommodate the exponentially increasing demand. In July 2002 (Phase III), Wikipedia shifted to the third-generation software, MediaWiki, originally written by Lee Daniel Crocker.

Several MediaWiki extensions are installed to extend the functionality of MediaWiki software. In April 2005, an Apache Lucene extension[76][77] was added to MediaWiki's built-in search and Wikipedia switched from MySQL to Lucene for searching. Currently Lucene Search 2.1,[78] which is written in Java and based on Lucene library 2.3,[79] is used. The Wikimedia Foundation also uses CiviCRM[80] and WordPress.[81]

The foundation published official Wikipedia mobile apps for Android and iOS devices and in March 2015, the apps were updated to include mobile user-friendly features.[82]


In general

Wikimedia Foundation financial development multilanguage
Financial development of the Wikimedia Foundation (in US$), 2003–2017

The Wikimedia Foundation relies on public contributions and grants to fund its mission.[83] It is exempt from federal income tax[83][84] and from state income tax.[83][85] It is not a private foundation, and contributions to it qualify as tax-deductible charitable contributions.[83]

The continued technical and economic growth of each of the Wikimedia projects is dependent mostly on donations but the Wikimedia Foundation also increases its revenue by alternative means of funding such as grants, sponsorship, services and brand merchandising. The Wikimedia OAI-PMH update feed service, targeted primarily at search engines and similar bulk analysis and republishing, has been a source of revenue for several years,[83] but is no longer open to new customers.[86] DBpedia was given access to this feed free of charge.[87] In July 2014, the foundation announced it would be accepting Bitcoin donations.[88]

Since the end of fiscal year ended 2004, the foundation's net assets have grown from US$57,000[89] to US$53.5 million at the end of fiscal year ended June 30, 2014.[90] Under the leadership of Sue Gardner, who joined the Wikimedia Foundation in 2007, the foundation's staff levels, number of donors and revenue have seen very significant growth.[91]

Interview with Garfield Byrd, Chief of Finance and Administration at the Wikimedia Foundation. Recorded October 7, 2011

In 2007, Charity Navigator gave Wikimedia an overall rating of three out of four possible stars[92] Charity Navigator gave three out of four possible stars in overall rating for fiscal years 2008 and 2009 which improved to four-stars in 2010.[93] As of December 2016, the overall rating was four stars.[94]


The Wikimedia Foundation expenses mainly concern salaries, wages and other professional operating and services.[95]


Finance Meeting Paris 2012-02-18 n06
Wikimedia Foundation and chapters finance meeting 2012, Paris

In 2008, the foundation received a US$40,000 grant by the Open Society Institute to create a printable version of Wikipedia.[96] It also received a US$262,000 grant by the Stanton Foundation to purchase hardware,[97] a US$500,000 unrestricted grant by Vinod and Neeru Khosla,[98] who later that year joined the foundation Advisory Board,[99] US$177,376 from the historians Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin foundation (Arcadia ), among others.[97] In March 2008, the foundation announced a large donation, at the time its largest donation yet: a three-year, US$3 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.[100]

In 2009, the foundation received four grants – the first grant was a US$890,000 Stanton Foundation grant which was aimed to help study and simplify user interface for first-time authors of Wikipedia.[101] The second was a US$300,000 Ford Foundation grant, given in July 2009, for Wikimedia Commons that aimed to improve the interfaces and workflows for multimedia uploading on Wikimedia websites.[102] In August 2009, the foundation received a US$500,000 grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.[103] Lastly, in August 2009, the Omidyar Network committed a US$2 million in grant to Wikimedia.[104]

In 2010, Google donated US$2 million to the foundation.[105] The Stanton Foundation granted $1.2 million to fund the Public Policy Initiative, a pilot program for what would later become the Wikipedia Education Program (and the spinoff Wiki Education Foundation).[106][107][108] Also in 2010, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation pledged a US$800,000 grant and all was funded during 2011.

In March 2011, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation authorized another US$3 million grant to continue to develop and maintain the foundation's mission. The grant was to be funded over three years with the first US$1 million funded in July 2011 and the remaining US$2 million was scheduled to be funded in August 2012 and 2013. As a major donor, Doron Weber from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation gained Board Visitor status at the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees.[109] In August 2011, the Stanton Foundation pledged to fund a US$3.6 million grant of which US$1.8 million was funded and the remaining was due to be funded in September 2012. As of 2011, this was the largest grant received by the Wikimedia Foundation to-date.[110] In November 2011, the foundation received a US$500,000 donation from Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife.[111][112]

In 2012, the foundation was awarded a grant of US$1.25 million from the historians Lisbet Rausing[111] and Peter Baldwin through Charities Aid Foundation, scheduled to be funded in five equal installments. The first installment of US$250,000 was received in April 2012 and the remaining were to be funded in December 2012 through 2015. In 2014, the foundation received the largest single gift in its history, a $5 million unrestricted donation from an anonymous donor supporting $1 million worth of expenses annually for the next five years.[113] The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, a foundation established by Intel co-founder and his wife, awarded a US$449,636 grant to develop Wikidata.[114]

Between 2014 and 2015, the foundation received US$500,000 from Monarch Fund, US$100,000 by Arcadia and an undisclosed amount by Stavros Niarchos Foundation to support the Wikipedia Zero initiative.[115][116][117]

In 2015, a grant agreement was reached with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to build a search engine called the "Knowledge Engine".[118][119]

In 2017, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation awarded another US$3 million grant for a three-year period.[109]

Financial summary

Wikimedia financial data through June 2017 (financial years run from July 1 to June 30)
Fiscal year Revenue Year-over-year ratio
Expenses Year-over-year ratio
Net assets Year-over-year ratio
(net assets)
Steady US$80,129
Steady N/A
Steady US$23,463
Steady N/A
Steady US$56,666
Steady N/A
Increase US$379,088
Increase 373.1%
Negative increase US$177,670
Negative increase 657.2%
Increase US$268,084
Increase 373.1%
Increase US$1,508,039
Increase 297.8%
Negative increase US$791,907
Negative increase 345.7%
Increase US$1,004,216
Increase 274.6%
Increase US$2,734,909
Increase 81.4%
Negative increase US$2,077,843
Negative increase 162.4%
Increase US$1,658,282
Increase 65.1%
Increase US$5,032,981
Increase 84.0%
Negative increase US$3,540,724
Negative increase 70.4%
Increase US$5,178,168
Increase 212.3%
Increase US$8,658,006
Increase 72.0%
Negative increase US$5,617,236
Negative increase 58.6%
Increase US$8,231,767
Increase 59.0%
Increase US$17,979,312
Increase 107.7%
Negative increase US$10,266,793
Negative increase 82.8%
Increase US$14,542,731
Increase 76.7%
Increase US$24,785,092
Increase 37.8%
Negative increase US$17,889,794
Negative increase 74.2%
Increase US$24,192,144
Increase 66.3%
Increase US$38,479,665
Increase 55.2%
Negative increase US$29,260,652
Negative increase 63.6%
Increase US$34,929,058
Increase 44.4%
Increase US$48,635,408
Increase 26.4%
Negative increase US$35,704,796
Negative increase 22.0%
Increase US$45,189,124
Increase 29.4%
Increase US$52,465,287
Increase 8.6%
Negative increase US$45,900,745
Negative increase 28.6%
Increase US$53,475,021
Increase 18.3%
Increase US$74,536,375
Increase 44.5%
Negative increase US$52,596,782
Negative increase 14.6%
Increase US$77,820,298
Increase 45.5%
Increase US$81,862,724
Increase 9.8%
Negative increase US$65,947,465
Negative increase 25.4%
Increase US$91,782,795
Increase 17.9%
Increase US$109,762,001
Increase 34.0%
Negative increase US$69,136,758
Negative increase 5.7%
Increase US$113,330,197
Increase 23.5%


Board of trustees

Christophe Henner défend son bilan
Christophe Henner, the current vice-chairman of the Board

The foundation's board of trustees has ultimate authority of all the businesses and affairs of the foundation. It is composed of ten members:

  • four who are appointed by the board itself;
  • three who are selected by the community encompassed by all the different Wikimedia projects;
  • two who are selected by the local chapters and thematic organizations;
  • and one emeritus for the foundation's founder, Jimmy Wales.[129]

Three permanent entities support the board on its mission and responsibilities: an executive director, who leads and oversees the operational arm of the foundation; an advisory board composed of individuals selected by the board itself that advise the board on different matters; and standing committees to which the board delegates certain matters while retaining ultimate authority. The board has also at times created other orthodox entities to support itself, such as executive secretaries and ad-hoc committees established for specific tasks.

The current board comprises María Sefidari as chairman and Christophe Henner as vice-chairman, together with Tanya Capuano, Nataliia Tymkiv, Dariusz Jemielniak as members at-large, and Jimmy Wales as founder's seat (installed as "Community Founder Trustee Position" to the WMF bylaws in August 2008).[130][131] James Heilman was appointed as a community selected trustee in August 2017.[132] Raju Narisetti, CEO of Gizmodo Media Group, was appointed trustee in October 2017,[133] and Bahraini human rights activist and blogger Esra'a Al Shafei idem in November 2017.[134]

In a high-profile decision of 2015, James Heilman was removed from the board,[135][136] with little explanation.[135] (He returned in the Board in August 2017). In January 2016, Arnnon Geshuri briefly joined the board before stepping down from the board following a controversy about an agreement he executed when at Google, violating United States antitrust law. The participating companies paid US$415 million in a class action suit on behalf of affected employees.[137][138]

Advisory board

The advisory board, according to the Wikimedia Foundation, is an international network of experts who have agreed to give the foundation meaningful help on a regular basis in many different areas, including law, organizational development, technology, policy, and outreach.[139]

Appointed members for the period from June 16, 2017 to June 30, 2018 were:[140]


First appointments

Background footage of Wikimedia's San Francisco office in 2014.

In 2004, the foundation appointed Tim Starling as developer liaison to help improve the MediaWiki software, Daniel Mayer as chief financial officer (finance, budgeting, and coordination of fund drives), and Erik Möller as content partnership coordinator. In May 2005, the foundation announced seven more official appointments.[141]

In January 2006, the foundation created several committees, including the Communication Committee, in an attempt to further organize activities essentially handled by volunteers at that time.[142] Starling resigned that month to spend more time on his PhD program.


Wikimedia Foundation Office Officey Photos-5
A workers area at Wikimedia's San Francisco headquarters in 2011.

The foundation's functions were, for the first few years, executed almost entirely by volunteers. In 2005, it had only two employees, Danny Wool, a coordinator, and Brion Vibber, a software manager.

As of October 4, 2006, the foundation had five paid employees:[143] two programmers, an administrative assistant, a coordinator handling fundraising and grants, and an interim executive director,[144] Brad Patrick, previously the foundation's general counsel. Patrick ceased his activity as interim director in January 2007, and then resigned from his position as legal counsel, effective April 1, 2007. He was replaced by Mike Godwin, who served as general counsel and legal coordinator from July 2007[145] until 2010.

In January 2007, Carolyn Doran was named chief operating officer and Sandy Ordonez joined as head of communications.[146] Doran began working as a part-time bookkeeper in 2006 after being sent by a temporary agency. Doran, found to have had a long criminal record,[147] left the foundation in July 2007, and Sue Gardner was hired as consultant and special advisor (later CEO). Doran's departure from the organization was cited by Florence Devouard as one of the reasons the foundation took about seven months to release its fiscal 2007 financial audit.[148]

149 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco
Exterior view of Wikimedia's San Francisco headquarters at New Montgomery St in 2014.

Danny Wool, officially the grant coordinator but also largely involved in fundraising and business development, resigned in March 2007. He accused Wales of misusing the foundation's funds for recreational purposes, and said that Wales had his Wikimedia credit card taken away in part because of his spending habits, a claim Wales denied.[149] In February 2007, the foundation added a new position, chapters coordinator, and hired Delphine Ménard,[150] who had been occupying the position as a volunteer since August 2005. Cary Bass was hired in March 2007 in the position of volunteer coordinator. Oleta McHenry was brought in as accountant in May 2007, through a temporary placement agency and made the official full-time accountant in August 2007. In January 2008, the foundation appointed Veronique Kessler as the new chief financial and operating officer, Kul Wadhwa as head of business development, and Jay Walsh as head of communications.

As of June 16, 2017, the foundation had approximately 280 employees and contractors.[5]

Disputes and lawsuits

Post-Sopa Blackout Party for Wikimedia Foundation staff-3
Wikimedia Foundation post-SOPA party, 2012

Many disputes have resulted in litigation[151][152][153][154] while others have not.[155] Attorney Matt Zimmerman stated, "Without strong liability protection, it would be difficult for Wikipedia to continue to provide a platform for user-created encyclopedia content."[156]

In December 2011, the foundation hired Washington, DC, lobbyist Dow Lohnes Government Strategies LLC to lobby the United States Congress with regard to "Civil Rights/Civil Liberties" and "Copyright/Patent/Trademark."[157] At the time of the hire the Foundation was concerned specifically about a bill known as the Stop Online Piracy Act.[158]

In October 2013, a German Court ruled that the Wikimedia Foundation can be held liable for content added to Wikipedia – however, this applies only when there has been a specific complaint; otherwise, the Wikimedia Foundation does not check any of the content published on Wikipedia and has no duty to do so.[159]

In June 2014, a copyright infringement lawsuit was filed by Bildkonst Upphovsrätt i Sverige against Wikimedia Sweden.[160]

On June 20, 2014, a defamation lawsuit (Law Division civil case No. L-1400-14) involving Wikipedia editors was filed with the Mercer County Superior Court in New Jersey seeking, inter alia, compensatory and punitive damages.[161][162]

In a March 10, 2015, op-ed for The New York Times, Wales and Tretikov announced the foundation was filing a lawsuit against the National Security Agency, calling into question its practice of mass surveillance, which they argued infringed the constitutional rights of the foundation's readers, editors and staff.[163][164][165] On October 23, 2015, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland dismissed the suit Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA on grounds of standing. US District Judge T. S. Ellis III ruled that the plaintiffs could not plausibly prove they were subject to upstream surveillance, and that their argument is riddled with assumptions, speculations and mathematical gymnastics.[166][167] The plaintiffs filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on February 17, 2016.[168]

In February 2016, Lila Tretikov announced her resignation as executive director, as a result of the WMF's controversial Knowledge Engine project and disagreements with the staff.[169][170]

Wikimedia Endowment

In January 2016, the foundation announced the creation of an endowment to ensure the continuity of the project in the future. The Wikimedia Endowment was established as a collective action fund at the Tides Foundation and its goal is to raise US$100 million in the next 10 years.[171] Craig Newmark was one of the initial donors, giving US$1 million to the endowment.[172] In 2018, and Facebook gave US$1 million each and George Soros donated $2 million to the endowment.[173][174][175] In January 2019, Google donated $2 million to the endowment.[176]


Obtrusive fundraising

During the 2015 fundraising campaign, some members of the community voiced their concerns about the fundraising banners. They argued that they were obtrusive for users and that they could be deceiving potential donors by giving the perception that Wikipedia had immediate financial issues, which was not the case. The Wikimedia Foundation vowed to improve wording on further fundraising campaigns to avoid these issues.[177]

Removal of community-appointed trustee

In June 2015, James Heilman was elected by the community to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees.[178] In December 2015, the Board removed Heilman from his position as a Trustee,[179][180] a decision that generated substantial controversy amongst members of the Wikipedia community.[135] A statement released by the board declared the lack of confidence of his fellow trustees in him as the reasons for his ouster. Heilman later stated that he "was given the option of resigning [by the Board] over the last few weeks. As a community elected member I see my mandate as coming from the community which elected me and thus declined to do so. I saw such a move as letting down those who elected me."[181] He subsequently pointed out that while on the Board, he had pushed for greater transparency regarding the Wikimedia Foundation's controversial Knowledge Engine project and its financing,[182] and indicated that his attempts to make public the Knight Foundation grant for the engine had been a factor in his dismissal.[183]

The volunteer community re-elected him to the Wikimedia Foundation board in 2017.[184]

Knowledge Engine

Knowledge Engine was a search engine project initiated in 2015 by the WMF to locate and display verifiable and trustworthy information on the Internet.[185] The goal of the KE was to be less reliant on traditional search engines and it was funded with a US$250,000 grant from the Knight Foundation.[186] The project was perceived as a scandal, mainly because it was conceived in secrecy, which was perceived as a conflict with the Wikimedia community's transparency. In fact, most of the information available to the community was received through leaked documents published by The Signpost in 2016.[187][185]

Following this controversy, Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Lila Tretikov resigned.[188]

Excessive spending

Wikimedia Foundation's expenses evolution by rubrics in US Dollars
Wikimedia Foundation's expenses evolution by rubrics in USD.

Wales was confronted with allegations that the WMF had "a miserable cost/benefit ratio and for years now has spent millions on software development without producing anything that actually works".[184] Wales acknowledged in 2014 that he had "been frustrated as well about the endless controversies about the rollout of inadequate software not developed with sufficient community consultation and without proper incremental rollout to catch show-stopping bugs".[184]

In 2017, an op-ed published by The Signpost, English Wikipedia online newspaper, titled Wikipedia has Cancer[189] produced a heated debate both in the Wikipedian community and the wider public. The author criticized the Wikimedia Foundation for its ever-increasing annual spending which, he argued, could put the project at financial risk should an unexpected event happen. The author proposed to put a cap on spending, build up its existing endowment, and restructure the endowment so that the WMF cannot dip into the principal when times get bad. Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director, Katherine Maher responded by pointing out that such an endowment was already created in 2016, confusing creating an endowment with building up an existing endowment.[190] As of January 2019 the WMF can still dip into the principal if times get bad.


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External links


Coordinates: 37°47′21″N 122°24′12″W / 37.7891838°N 122.4033522°W


Bomis ( to rhyme with "promise") was a dot-com company best known for supporting the creations of free-content online-encyclopedia projects Nupedia and Wikipedia. It was founded in 1996 by Jimmy Wales, Tim Shell and Michael Davis. Davis became acquainted with Wales after hiring him at Chicago Options Associates in 1994, and Wales became friends with Shell through mailing lists discussing philosophy. The primary business of Bomis was the sale of advertising on the search portal.The company initially tried a number of ideas for content, including being a directory of information about Chicago. The site subsequently focused on content geared to a male audience, including information on sporting activities, automobiles and women. Bomis became successful after focusing on X-rated media. "Bomis Babes" was devoted to erotic images; the "Bomis Babe Report" featured adult pictures. Bomis Premium, available for an additional fee, provided explicit material. "The Babe Engine" helped users find erotic content through a web search engine. The advertising director for Bomis noted that 99 percent of queries on the site were for nude women.Bomis created Nupedia as a free online encyclopedia (with content submitted by experts) but it had a tedious, slow review process. Wikipedia was initially launched by Bomis to provide content for Nupedia, and was a for-profit venture (a Bomis subsidiary) through the end of 2002. As the costs of Wikipedia rose with its popularity, Bomis' revenues declined as result of the dot-com crash. Since Wikipedia was a drain on Bomis' resources, Wales and philosophy graduate student Larry Sanger decided to fund the project as a charity; Sanger was laid off from Bomis in 2002. Nupedia content was merged into Wikipedia, and it ceased in 2003.The non-profit Wikimedia Foundation began in 2003 with a Board of Trustees composed of Bomis' three founders (Wales, Davis and Shell) and was first headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida, Bomis' location. Wales used about US$100,000 of revenue from Bomis to fund Wikipedia before the decision to shift the encyclopedia to non-profit status. Wales stepped down from his role as CEO of Bomis in 2004. Shell served as CEO of the company in 2005, while on the Wikimedia Foundation board of trustees. Wales edited Wikipedia in 2005 to remove the characterizations of Bomis as providing softcore pornography, which attracted media attention; Wales expressed regret for his actions. The Atlantic gave Bomis the nickname "Playboy of the Internet", and the term caught on in other media outlets. Scholars have described Bomis as a provider of softcore pornography.

English Wikipedia

The English Wikipedia is the English-language edition of the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Founded on 15 January 2001, it is the first edition of Wikipedia and, as of November 2017, has the most articles of any of the editions. As of March 2019, 12% of articles in all Wikipedias belong to the English-language edition. This share has gradually declined from more than 50 percent in 2003, due to the growth of Wikipedias in other languages. As of 24 March 2019, there are 5,827,659 articles on the site, having surpassed the 5 million mark on 1 November 2015. In October 2015, the combined text of the English Wikipedia's articles totalled 11.5 gigabytes when compressed.The Simple English Wikipedia is a variation in which most of the articles use only basic English vocabulary. There is also the Old English (Ænglisc/Anglo-Saxon) Wikipedia (angwiki). Community-produced news publications include The Signpost.

Erik Möller

Erik Möller (born 1979) is a German freelance journalist, software developer, author, and former deputy director of the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), based in San Francisco. Möller additionally works as a web designer and previously managed his own web hosting service,

Florence Devouard

Florence Jacqueline Sylvie Devouard, (née Nibart; born 10 September 1968) was the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation between October 2006 and July 2008.

Jimmy Wales

Jimmy Donal "Jimbo" Wales (born August 7, 1966) is an American Internet entrepreneur, best known as the co-founder of the online non-profit encyclopedia Wikipedia and the for-profit web hosting company Wikia.Wales was born in Huntsville, Alabama, where he attended Randolph School, a university-preparatory school. Later, he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in finance from Auburn University and the University of Alabama respectively.While in graduate school, Wales taught at two universities; however, he departed before completing a PhD to take a job in finance and later worked as the Research Director of a Chicago futures and options firm. In 1996, he and two partners founded Bomis, an adult web portal featuring entertainment and adult content. The company would provide the initial funding for the peer-reviewed free encyclopedia, Nupedia (2000–03), and its successor, Wikipedia.

On January 15, 2001, with Larry Sanger and others, Wales launched Wikipedia—a free, open content encyclopedia that enjoyed rapid growth and popularity; as Wikipedia's public profile grew, he became the project's promoter and spokesman. He is historically cited as a co-founder of Wikipedia, though he has disputed the "co-" designation, declaring himself the sole founder.Wales serves on the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, the non-profit charitable organization that he helped establish to operate Wikipedia, holding its board-appointed "community founder" seat. His role in creating Wikipedia, which has become the world's largest encyclopedia, prompted Time magazine to name him in their 2006 list of "The 100 Most Influential People in the World".

Katherine Maher

Katherine Roberts Maher (born April 18, 1983) is the chief executive officer and executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, a position she has held since June 2016. Previously she was chief communications officer. In addition to a background in the field of information and communications technology, Maher has worked in the non-profit and international sectors focusing on the use of technology to empower human rights and international development.

Lila Tretikov

Lila Tretikov (); born Olga (Lyalya) Tretyakova, Russian: Ольга (Ляля) Третьяко́ва, January 25, 1978) in Moscow is a Russian–American engineer and manager, who was executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation from 2014 to 2016.

Born in Moscow, she emigrated to the United States as a teenager and in 1999 began working as a software engineer in California, where she co-authored several software patents and also founded a technology marketing company. A specialist in enterprise software, she was chief information officer and vice president of engineering at SugarCRM Inc, before succeeding Sue Gardner at the Wikimedia Foundation in 2014.

On February 25, 2016, Tretikov tendered her resignation, effective March 31, as a result of the WMF's handling of the Knowledge Engine project.

List of Wikipedia mobile applications

A number of organizations within the Wikimedia movement including the Wikimedia Foundation publish official mobile apps for using Wikipedia on mobile device operating systems. All are available for free via the appropriate app store (e.g. Google Play, App Store, Windows Store). They can also be downloaded independently of any third party store, from the Wikimedia Foundation's releases website, which also keeps old and beta versions.Independent developers have also released many unofficial apps for reading Wikipedia articles. Some apps load content from the Wikipedia site and process it; other apps use the MediaWiki API. Some only display Wikipedia content, usually omitting some features such as categories and talk pages. Some allow editing.

Sue Gardner

Sue Gardner (born May 11, 1967) is a Canadian journalist, not-for-profit executive and business executive. She was the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation from December 2007 until May 2014, and before that was the director of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's website and online news outlets.

In 2012, she was ranked as the 70th-most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine. In 2013, she joined the board of Global Voices. In May 2015, the Tor Project announced that Gardner would be assisting the project with the development of their long-term organizational strategy. In 2018, she was announced as executive director of The Markup, a news site to investigate "Big Tech".


VisualEditor (VE) is a project to provide a "visual" or "WYSIWYG-like" online rich-text editor as a MediaWiki extension to Wikipedia. It was developed by the Wikimedia Foundation in partnership with Wikia. In July 2013 the beta was enabled by default, with the ability to opt-out, for and several of the largest Wikipedias.The Wikimedia Foundation considered it the most challenging technical project to date, while The Economist has called it Wikipedia's most significant change. According to The Daily Dot, Wikimedia Foundation's pursuit of wider participation may risk alienating existing editors. In September 2013, English Wikipedia's VisualEditor was changed from opt-out to opt-in, following user complaints, but was returned to being available by default in October 2015 after further development. A 2015 study by the Wikimedia Foundation found that VisualEditor failed to provide the anticipated benefits for new editors.

Wiki Education Foundation

The Wiki Education Foundation (sometimes abbreviated Wiki Ed) is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California. It runs the Wikipedia Education Program, which promotes the integration of Wikipedia into coursework by educators in Canada and the United States.


Wikidata is a collaboratively edited knowledge base hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation. It is a common source of open data that Wikimedia projects such as Wikipedia can use, and anyone else, under a public domain license. This is similar to the way Wikimedia Commons provides storage for media files and access to those files for all Wikimedia projects, and which are also freely available for reuse. Wikidata is powered by the software Wikibase.

Wikimedia movement

The Wikimedia movement, or simply Wikimedia, is the global community of contributors to Wikimedia Foundation projects. The movement was created around Wikipedia's community, and has since expanded to the other Wikimedia projects, including the commons projects Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata, and volunteer software developers contributing to MediaWiki. These volunteers are supported by numerous organizations around the world, including the Wikimedia Foundation, related chapters, thematic organizations, and user groups.

The name "Wikimedia", a compound of wiki and media, was coined by American author Sheldon Rampton in a post to the English mailing list in March 2003, three months after Wiktionary became the second wiki-based project hosted on Jimmy Wales' platform, and three months before the Wikimedia Foundation was announced and incorporated. "Wikimedia" may also refer to the Wikimedia projects.


Wikinews is a free-content news source wiki and a project of the Wikimedia Foundation. The site works through collaborative journalism. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has distinguished Wikinews from Wikipedia by saying "on Wikinews, each story is to be written as a news story as opposed to an encyclopedia article." The neutral point of view policy espoused in Wikinews distinguishes it from other citizen journalism efforts such as Indymedia and OhmyNews. In contrast to most projects of the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikinews allows original work under the form of original reporting and interviews.


Wikipedia ( (listen), (listen) WIK-ih-PEE-dee-ə) is a multilingual, web-based, free encyclopedia based on a model of openly editable and viewable content, a wiki. It is the largest and most popular general reference work on the World Wide Web, and is one of the most popular websites by Alexa rank. It is owned and supported by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization that operates on money it receives from donors.Wikipedia was launched on January 15, 2001, by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. Sanger coined its name, as a portmanteau of wiki (the Hawai'ian word for "quick") and "encyclopedia". Initially an English-language encyclopedia, versions in other languages were quickly developed. With 5,827,659 articles, the English Wikipedia is the largest of the more than 290 Wikipedia encyclopedias. Overall, Wikipedia comprises more than 40 million articles in 301 different languages and by February 2014 it had reached 18 billion page views and nearly 500 million unique visitors per month.In 2005, Nature published a peer review comparing 42 hard science articles from Encyclopædia Britannica and Wikipedia and found that Wikipedia's level of accuracy approached that of Britannica, although critics suggested that it might not have fared so well in a similar study of a random sampling of all articles or one focused on social science or contentious social issues. Time magazine stated that the open-door policy of allowing anyone to edit had made Wikipedia the biggest and possibly the best encyclopedia in the world, and was a testament to the vision of Jimmy Wales.Wikipedia has been criticized for exhibiting systemic bias, for presenting a mixture of "truths, half truths, and some falsehoods", and for being subject to manipulation and spin in controversial topics. In 2017, Facebook announced that it would help readers detect fake news by suitable links to Wikipedia articles. YouTube announced a similar plan in 2018.

Wikipedia Zero

Wikipedia Zero was a project by the Wikimedia Foundation to provide Wikipedia free of charge on mobile phones via zero-rating, particularly in developing markets. The objective of the program was to increase access to free knowledge, in particular without data-usage cost. With 97 operators in over 72 countries, it is estimated that access to Wikipedia was provided to more than 800 million people through this program. The Wikipedia Zero program ended in 2018.

The program was launched in 2012, and won a 2013 South by Southwest Interactive Award for activism. After having received criticism over the years for violating the principle of net neutrality, in February 2018 the Wikimedia Foundation announced the end of the initiative, stating that it would take a new approach on partnerships.Facebook Zero has been cited as an inspiration for Wikipedia Zero.

Wikipedia community

The Wikipedia community is the community of contributors to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Individual contributors are known as "Wikipedians". added the word "Wikipedian" in August 2012.Almost all Wikipedians are volunteers. With the increased maturity and visibility of Wikipedia, other categories of Wikipedians have emerged, such as Wikipedians in residence and students with assignments related to editing Wikipedia.


Wikispecies is a wiki-based online project supported by the Wikimedia Foundation. Its aim is to create a comprehensive free content catalogue of all species; the project is directed at scientists, rather than at the general public. Jimmy Wales stated that editors are not required to fax in their degrees, but that submissions will have to pass muster with a technical audience. Wikispecies is available under the GNU Free Documentation License and CC BY-SA 3.0.

Started in September 2004, with biologists across the world invited to contribute, the project had grown a framework encompassing the Linnaean taxonomy with links to Wikipedia articles on individual species by April 2005.


Wikivoyage is a free web-based travel guide for travel destinations and travel topics written by volunteer authors. It is a sister project of Wikipedia and supported and hosted by the same non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Wikivoyage has been called the "Wikipedia of travel guides".The project began when editors at the German and then Italian versions of Wikitravel decided in September 2006 to move their editing activities and then current content to a new site, in accordance with the site copyright license, a procedure known as "forking". The resulting site went live as "Wikivoyage" on December 10, 2006 and was owned and operated by a German association set up for that purpose, Wikivoyage e.V. (which continues to be its representative association). Content was published under the copyleft license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike.

In 2012, after a long history of dissatisfaction with their existing host, the English-language version community of Wikitravel also decided as a community to fork their project. In a two-way move, the English Wikitravel community re-merged with Wikivoyage under the Wikivoyage brand, and also all Wikivoyage language versions moved their operations to be hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), a non-profit organization hosting several of the world's largest wiki-based communities such as Wikipedia. Following agreements by the various communities involved and the Wikimedia Foundation, the site was moved to the WMF servers in December 2012 and the whole of Wikivoyage was officially re-launched as a Wikimedia project on January 15, 2013, the day of the 12th anniversary of Wikipedia's launch.

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