Wikimedia Values

For two decades, the process of freely creating knowledge, sharing it and refining it in public has shaped Wikipedia and other projects in the Wikimedia movement. This community-powered model creates trustworthy, reliably sourced information in an internet awash with misinformation.

But sustaining this work has costs. The WMF recently reported reserves in excess of its planned revenue targets.

1. Trust

In an internet awash in untrustworthy, false, or obscene content, Wikipedia stands as an example of reliable, trustworthy knowledge. This is thanks to a model of open, noncommercial collaboration that’s been fundamental to Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects for more than 20 years.

The Foundation hosts Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, develops software experiences for reading and editing those sites, serves the volunteer communities and partners who make them possible, and advocates for policies that enable free knowledge worldwide.

Its primary stakeholders are editors of Wikimedia sites, donors to the Foundation, and readers of those sites. These people are its “people of the project.” They select Board members, oversee the Foundation’s work and priorities, and create their own policies on each Project. They are responsible for the vast majority of its value.

2. Transparency

The central philosophy of the encyclopaedia is that readers are invited to contribute. This does not mean that articles will be perfect or without errors, but it means that these can be addressed through contributions and discussion.

It’s important to be transparent about the costs of running Wikipedia. Unlike other top websites, the Wikimedia Foundation does not sell data about readers for profit. This allows the website to stay neutral and free of commercial influences.

This transparency is also essential when fundraising for the Foundation. People in pandemic-hit countries are often told that the Wikimedia Foundation really needs their donation to protect Wikipedia’s independence. But what are they actually being asked to donate? And where does the money go? The most obvious cost is server and administration costs.

3. Openness

Openness to experience is a personality trait that involves tolerance of ambiguity, low dogmatism, need for variety, absorption, and intellectual curiosity. People who are highly open to experience can learn from a range of experiences and understand new things quickly.

The Wikimedia Foundation hosts Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects, builds software experiences for reading and editing, and works to support volunteer communities globally. It also promotes the Wikimedia movement and supports policies that enable it to thrive. It is a nonprofit organization, supported by donations. Its mission is to cultivate a world in which everyone can freely share the sum of all knowledge. The foundation achieves this through a global network of independent, formally recognized affiliates (chapter and user groups). Each is accountable to its own community, donors, and readers.

4. Community

Community is the foundation of everything we do. Our communities include contributors who share a common vision and want to freely share the sum of all knowledge, readers of Wikipedia articles, students using Wikipedia for assignments, volunteers helping with projects, schools and GLAM working with Wikimedia, and organizations and companies co-operating with the Wikimedia movement.

Among other things, it funds the servers and staff for an encyclopaedia that attracts millions of visitors a month, and has huge costs associated with hosting, administration, and support. It also supports a number of events for the community to meet and discuss Wikipedia topics, including addressing the gender gap in its content.

The board also includes dedicated volunteers from the wikimedia communities who provide governance, fundraising and investment guidance to help us reach our goals. Phoebe Ayers and Patricio Lorente are two such members, both long-time editors in English Wikipedia, as well as contributors to other Wikimedia sites and projects.

5. Equity

Achieving equity, both in access to knowledge and in the form that it takes, is one of Wikimedia’s core values. This means ensuring that people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to contribute and benefit from the work of Wikimedia, as well as advocating for the rights of people who might otherwise be denied those opportunities.

This is a huge undertaking. As Band and Gerafi point out, the cost of running Wikipedia is significant: server costs, administrative costs, staff salaries. And these are just the beginning of the cost. Wikipedia gets its worth from thousands of volunteer editors, who give their time and effort because the movement is set up as a nonprofit. Without that volunteer base, the website would not be the same.

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