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February 12, 2007

Will Wikipedia Close Down? Please, I wish

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It’s Monday which means it’s Clear Up Rumors From The Weekend day. (That needs a Ze Frank-style theme song.) You’re excited, aren’t you?

This weekend’s taken-out-of-context rumor was that Wikipedia would close down by June if it didn’t immediately get some funding to combat increasing server costs. Though I wished, hoped and prayed that this rumor might be true, it very obviously wasn’t.

The rumor started when some overanxious bloggers got excited and took a comment made by Wikimedia Foundation chairwoman Florence Devouard completely out of context and ran with it. During the recent Lift07 conference, Florence stated that Wikipedia currently has enough cash to pay the bills for about 3 months.

Left to their own devices, bloggers turned that comment into: Wikipedia will close down in three months if people don’t hurry up and send them some money.

See, how that’s not accurate? No one said anything about Wikipedia closing down (unfortunately), Florence just said to date they had about 3-4 months of cash already in the bank. That’s it. No scandals. Wikipedia is still boring.

Regardless of what she actually said, the rumor mill went into overdrive about Wikipedia’s supposed cash crisis, how to solve it, and if there would be some sort of revolt if Wikipedia was ever extinguished. (Oh, and then because no one was looking at him, Robert Scoble complained about how TechMeme handling the linking to this story. Yeah, I don’t know why either.)

As for the cash crisis, it doesn’t look like Wikpedia has one. Its chairwoman seems confident that Wikipedia has enough money to sustain itself for quite awhile, saying plans were being made for what Wikipedia would do in 2009. And if that’s not good enough, Li Evans did some great digging and uncovered some Wikipedia financial documents which prove the situation is less-than-dire.

But what if it was? Would users support a for-profit version of the online encyclopedia complete with advertising? Of course they would, and should Wikipedia opt to do that (which they won’t), the potential for a high yearly profit is there.

HiMojo.com took a look at Wikipedia’ traffic, potential for advertising, crunched some numbers and ultimately decided that Wikipedia could earn $2.8 million per month off display and banner advertising. Subtract from that employee salaries, server costs, sushi lunches, and whatever they’re paying Google to rank so highly (kidding!), and Wikipedia is left with a yearly profit of $35 million. That would certainly pay for some servers.

Why wouldn’t Wikipedia put ads on its pages? Because Wikipedia was founded on creating an unbiased point of view that anyone can contribute to. Slapping ads on your site would detract from that and I don’t think Jimmy Wales would opt for it.

That being said, I do think Wikipedia will have some trouble in the next 12 months, but because they’re alienating people, not because they’re running out of cash. Over at Marketing Pilgrim, Any Beal asked ?

Nope.

I would 100 percent not mind seeing Wikipedia ride off into the sunset. Like DMOZ, Wikipedia may still exist in a year, but I’d be surprised if it had the same bite it used to. I think Wikipedia has written its own swan song by alientating and angering those who have made it successful. It’s also completely infuriating to see Wikipedia ranking in the top three for every possible search query and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that. As resentment builds, links will stop coming, rankings will deteriorate, and we get our SERPs back.

[Wow, all this rage. I’m just going to be over here waving my tiny Wikipedia flag. Just because it’s got an undeserved place in the SERPs doesn’t mean that it’s not the most entertaining site since the Virtual Bubblewrap site.–Susan] — I…I don’t even know how to respond to that. But at least I know why you were clicking so furiously a moment ago. Working hard, I see.

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7 responses to “Will Wikipedia Close Down? Please, I wish”

  1. Daniel writes:

    what do you have agains Wikipedia anyways?!? they are a good project!

  2. Lisa writes:

    My problem with devil spawn Wikipedia is that it puts non-expert, often misleading information at the number one position for every possible search query. Even worse, it pushes down information that actually IS valuable and IS expert. The project is interesting, the information it delivers isn’t.

    [insert friendly comment here as to not scare off the readers.] I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! :)

  3. BrunoG writes:

    Hi Lisa, thank you for linking to my original post summarizing what Florence really said at LIFT. I’ve interviewed her and got access to some more info, so here is the final word on the “Wikimedia cash crunch” story (Wikipedia won’t shut down, that’s a given):
    http://www.lunchoverip.com/2007/02/the_wikimedia_c.html
    http://www.lunchoverip.com/2007/02/final_word_on_w.html

  4. IlĂ­dio writes:

    Talking about information that is valuable and is expert. What the users of wikipedia do is copy and paste the information from other websites, I haven’t seen any innacurate information there before, only some small details.

  5. Jan writes:

    I monitor one subject on wikipedia out of interest, and find that the amount of information copied and pasted from niche websites on the topic, not too mention recently published books, is horrendous. I am not surprised Wikipedia is avoiding implementing advertising on the site, since the authors of plagiarized content would certainly become more vociferous and in some cases litigious, to see their work helping produe a profit for someone else.

  6. tingmo writes:

    I like wikipedia the way it is right now. I just wish wikipedia doesn’t get too commercialized; that will destroy the whole purpose for the volunteers who write and edit contents there.

  7. Gus writes:

    I totally agree with you. I could care less if Wikipedia dies. Who wants all those pages of arugements for non-controversial subjects anyways?



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