Is Wikipedia On Its Last Legs?

    February 12, 2007

The monetization of Wikipedia has been the subject of much debate, and even a little venom spitting, for the past several months. With reports surfacing that funding for the user-edited encyclopedia may be running out, will Wikians finally embrace an ad-supported business model?

According to Alexa, Wikipedia is the twelfth most popular site on the entire Internet. Within six months, however, the entire site could be non-existent.

At least that’s the prevailing mindset throughout the blogosphere conversation today concerning Wikipedia’s future.

The buzz is stemming from a quote given at Lift07 in which a Wikipedia spokesperson prognosticated that the site could be in peril without acquiring additional funding to maintain its infrastructure.

Via Digitalis has the coverage:

“At this point, Wikipedia has the financial ressources 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. But it is another illustration of how difficult it is to find the proper business model in the digital age, and more precisely in this case in what Florence called the “gift economy”.

Several analysts have suggested ad-supported monetization as a potential solution to Wikipedia’s financial dilemma. The community, or a least those perceived to be speaking for it, has by in large shunned this idea, claiming that such a practice would be invasive to its users.

Jason Calacanis feels that the entire Wikipedia community may not be accurately represented. He suggests that there is an inner circle of few that are running the show:

If the Wikipedia wants real consensus on the issue of advertising why don’t we place a poll on the top level of the Wikipedia that asks people how they would like to fund the Wikipedia: a) by looking at one advertisement or b) by donating money. The reason they won’t ever put that survey up!? Because 80% of people would opt to see an advertisement and the vocal minority that controls Wikipedia with an iron fist/IRC channel will block it.

I may disagree with Jason on the finer points of SEO, but when it comes to Wikipedia it’s difficult for me to find flaw in his reasoning. Why is the vocal minority so adamant in its opposition of monetizing the site with an advertising model?

More importantly, will these influential few play the fiddle ala Nero while their virtual city of knowledge burns to the ground?

Add to | Digg | Reddit | Furl