Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Logo of the Wikimedia Foundation
Type 501(c)(3) charitable organization
Founded St. Petersburg, Florida, U.S.
June 20, 2003 (2003-06-20)
Location San Francisco, California, United States / Los Angeles, California (registered Agent)
Key people Ting Chen, Chair of the Board
Jimmy Wales, Chairman Emeritus[1]
Sue Gardner, Executive Director
Area served Worldwide
Focus Free, open content, wiki-based internet projects
Method Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikibooks, Wikisource, Wikimedia Commons, Wikispecies, Wikinews, Wikiversity, Wikimedia Incubator and MetaWiki
Revenue US$10,632,254 (July – December 2009)[2]
Volunteers 350,000 (2005)[3]
Employees 75 (as of July 2011)[4]

Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. is an American non-profit charitable organization headquartered in San Francisco, California, United States, and organized under the laws of the state of Florida, where it was initially based. It operates several online collaborative wiki projects including Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikibooks, Wikisource, Wikimedia Commons, Wikispecies, Wikinews, Wikiversity, Wikimedia Incubator, Meta-Wiki and owns the now defunct, Nupedia. Its flagship project, Wikipedia, ranks among the top ten most-visited websites worldwide.[5] The creation of the foundation was officially announced on June 20, 2003 by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales,[6] who had been operating Wikipedia under the aegis of his company Bomis.[7]



The Wikimedia Foundation falls under section 501(c)(3) of the US Internal Revenue Code as a public charity. Its National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) code is C60 (Adult, Continuing Education).[8][9] The foundation's by-laws declare a statement of purpose of collecting and developing educational content and to disseminate it effectively and globally.[10]

The Wikimedia Foundation's stated goal is to develop and maintain open content, wiki-based projects and to provide the full contents of those projects to the public free of charge.[11] This is possible thanks to its Terms of Use (updated and approved on June 2009, to adopt CC-BY-SA license).

History and growth

The Wikimedia Foundation was created from Wikipedia and Nupedia on June 20, 2003.[12] It applied to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to trademark Wikipedia on September 17, 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. Technically a service mark, the scope of the mark is for: "Provision of information in the field of general encyclopedic knowledge via the Internet." There are plans to license the use of the Wikipedia trademark for some products, such as books or DVDs.[13]

The name "Wikimedia" was coined by American author Sheldon Rampton in a post to the English mailing list in March 2003.[14]

With the foundation's announcement, Wales also transferred ownership of all Wikipedia, Wiktionary and Nupedia domain names to Wikimedia along with the copyrights for all materials related to these projects that were created by Bomis employees or Wales himself. The computer equipment used to run all the Wikimedia projects was also donated by Wales to the foundation, which also acquired the domain names "" and "".

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

On December 11, 2006, the Wikimedia Foundation 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 Statute. Accordingly, the bylaws were amended to remove all reference to membership rights and activities. The decision to change the bylaws was passed by the board unanimously.[15]

On September 25, 2007, the Wikimedia Foundation 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 as well as cheaper and more convenient international travel than is available from St. Petersburg, Florida.[16][17][18]

The one billionth edit to a Wikimedia project took place on April 16, 2010.[19]

Original Board of Trustees

Volunteer committees and positions

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 the appointment of seven people to official positions:[23]

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.[24] Starling resigned that month to spend more time on his PhD program.


The functions of the Wikimedia Foundation were, for the first few years, executed almost entirely by volunteers. In 2005, the foundation had only two employees, Danny Wool, a coordinator, and Brion Vibber, a software manager. Though the number of employees has grown, the foundation's staff is still very small, and the bulk of foundation work continues to be done by volunteers.

As of October 4, 2006, the Wikimedia Foundation had five paid employees:[25] two programmers, an administrative assistant, a coordinator handling fundraising and grants, and an interim executive director,[26] 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[27] until 2010.

In January 2007, Carolyn Doran was named chief operating officer and Sandy Ordonez came on board as head of communications.[28] Doran began working as a part-time bookkeeper in 2006 after being sent by a temporary agency. Doran later left the foundation in July 2007, and Sue Gardner was hired as consultant and special advisor (later CEO). Some months after Doran's departure, it was determined[29] that Doran was a convicted felon, with a DUI arrest during her tenure at the foundation and a substantial criminal history, including shooting her boyfriend and complicity in credit card forgery.[30] Her departure from the organization was cited as one of the reasons the foundation took about seven months to release its fiscal 2007 financial audit.[31]

Danny Wool, officially the grant coordinator but also largely involved in fundraising and business development, resigned in March 2007. In February 2007, the foundation added a new position, chapters coordinator, and hired Delphine Ménard,[32] 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. In May 2007, Vishal Patel was hired to assist in business development.[33] Oleta McHenry was brought in as accountant in May 2007, through a temporary placement agency and made the official fulltime accountant in August 2007. In January 2008, the foundation appointed three new staff: Veronique Kessler as the new chief financial and operating officer, Kul Wadhwa to replace Vishal Patel as head of business development, and Jay Walsh as head of communications.

In June 2008, the foundation announced two staff additions in fundraising: Rebecca Handler as major gifts officer and Rand Montoya as head of community giving.[34] Soon afterward, Sara Crouse was hired as head of partnerships and foundation relations.[35] In fall 2008, the foundation hired three software developers: Tomasz Finc, Ariel Glenn, and Trevor Parscal.[36]

In May 2011, the Wikimedia foundation had 65 employees. A list of Wikimedia Foundation staff can be found at the Wikimedia Foundation's staff page.

Board members

Board of Trustees

These are the members of the Board of Trustees and the expiry of their terms, as of October 2011:[37]

Advisory Board

The Advisory Board 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.[39] As of August 2010, the members are:

Projects, initiatives and chapters


In addition to the multilingual general encyclopedia Wikipedia, the foundation manages a multi-language dictionary and thesaurus named Wiktionary, an encyclopedia of quotations named Wikiquote, a repository of source texts in any language named Wikisource, a collection of e-book texts for students (such as textbooks and annotated public domain books) named Wikibooks, and a collection of educational materials and activities named Wikiversity. Wikijunior is a subproject of Wikibooks that specializes in books for children.

The launch dates shown below are when official domains were established for the projects and/or beta versions were launched; preliminary test versions at other domains are not considered.

Name Web address Launched Description
Wikipedia 2001-01-15 Encyclopedia containing more than 19 million articles in 282 languages.
Meta-Wiki 2001-11-09 Wiki devoted to the coordination of the Wikimedia projects.
Wiktionary 2002-12-12 Dictionary cataloging meanings, synonyms, etymologies and translations.
Wikibooks 2003-07-10 Collection of free educational textbooks and learning materials.
Wikiquote 2003-07-10 Collection of quotations structured in numerous ways.
Wikisource 2003-11-23 Project to provide and translate free source documents, such as public domain texts.
Wikimedia Commons 2004-09-07 Repository of images, sounds, videos and general media, containing over 11 million files.
Wikimedia Incubator 2006-06-02 Used to test possible new languages for existing projects.
Wikispecies 2004-09-13 Directory of species data on animalia, plantae, fungi, bacteria, archaea, protista and all other forms of life.
Wikinews 2004-11-08 News source containing original reporting by citizen journalists from many countries.
Wikiversity 2006-08-15 Educational and research materials and activities.
Wikimedia Outreach 2009-10-27 Promotion of Wikimedia projects
Wikimedia Strategic planning 2009-07-23 Strategy planning work for all Wikimedia projects
Wikimedia Usability Initiative 2009-02-04 Usability team wiki
Wikimania Wikimania conference websites
Wikipedia Test Wiki 2006-01-13 Test wiki that runs a recent version of MediaWiki


Each year, Wikimedia organizes the event Wikimania, a conference for users of the Wikimedia Foundation projects. It was first organized in Frankfurt (Germany), 2005.

Local chapters

Wikimedia projects have an international scope. To continue this success on an organizational level, Wikimedia is building an international network of associated organizations.

Local chapters are self-dependent organizations, coordinated by a Chapters Committee (ChapCom), that share the goals of the Wikimedia Foundation and support them within a specified geographical region, usually based on physical boundaries. They support the foundation, the Wikimedia community and Wikimedia projects in different ways—by collecting donations, organizing local events and projects and spreading the word of Wikimedia, free content and Wiki culture. They also provide the community and potential partners with a point of contact capable of fulfilling specific local needs.

Local chapters are self-dependent associations with no legal control of nor responsibility for the websites of the Wikimedia Foundation and vice versa.

Area Title URL Since
 Argentina Wikimedia Argentina 02007-09-01 September 1, 2007
 Australia Wikimedia Australia 02008-03-01 March 1, 2008
 Austria Wikimedia Österreich 02008-02-26 February 26, 2008
 Canada Wikimedia Canada 02011-05-24 May 24, 2011
 Chile Wikimedia Chile 02011-07-16 July 16, 2011
 Czech Republic Wikimedia Česká republika 02008-03-06 March 6, 2008
 Denmark Wikimedia Danmark 02009-07-03 July 3, 2009
 Estonia Wikimedia Eesti 02010-08-31 August 31, 2010
 Finland Wikimedia Suomi 02009-09-21 September 21, 2009
 France Wikimédia France 02004-10-23 October 23, 2004
 Germany Wikimedia Deutschland 02004-06-13 June 13, 2004
 Hong Kong 香港維基媒體協會 02008-03-01 March 1, 2008
 Hungary Wikimédia Magyarország 02008-09-27 September 27, 2008
 India Wikimedia India 02011-01-03 January 3, 2011
 Indonesia Wikimedia Indonesia 02008-10-07 October 7, 2008
 Israel Wikimedia Israel 02007-06-26 June 26, 2007
 Italy Wikimedia Italia 02005-06-17 June 17, 2005
 Macau 澳門維基媒體協會 02011-04-24 April 24, 2011
 Macedonia Викимедија Македонија 02009-09-21 September 21, 2009
 Mexico Wikimedia México 02011-08-03 August 3, 2011
 Netherlands Wikimedia Nederland 02006-03-27 March 27, 2006
 Norway Wikimedia Norge 02007-06-23 June 23, 2007
 Philippines Wikimedia Philippines 02010-04-12 April 12, 2010
 Poland Wikimedia Polska 02005-11-18 November 18, 2005
 Portugal Wikimedia Portugal 02009-07-03 July 3, 2009
 Russia Викимедиа РУ 02008-05-24 May 24, 2008
 Serbia Wikimedia Serbia 02005-12-03 December 3, 2005
 Spain Wikimedia España 02011-02-07February 7, 2011
 Sweden Wikimedia Sverige 02007-12-11 December 11, 2007
 Switzerland Wikimedia CH 02006-05-14 May 14, 2006
 Republic of China 中華民國維基媒體協會 02007-07-04 July 4, 2007
 Ukraine Вікімедіа Україна 02009-07-03 July 3, 2009
 United Kingdom Wikimedia UK 02009-01-12 January 12, 2009
 Venezuela Wikimedia Venezuela 02011-10-04 October 4, 2011
 New York City Wikimedia New York City 02009-01-12 January 12, 2009
 Washington, D.C. Wikimedia District of Columbia 02011-09-12 September 12, 2011

Strategic Plan

In response to the growing size and popularity of Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation announced a Strategic Plan to improving and sustaining 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.[40] After wide consultation, 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.[41]

Wikipedia Usability Initiative

In December 2008, the Wikimedia Foundation announced a restricted donation of $890,000 grant from the Stanton Foundation, to improve Wikipedia's accessibility.[42] Later named the Wikipedia Usability Initiative, the grant enabled the Wikimedia Foundation to appoint project-specific staff to the technology department.[43]

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.[44] 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.[45]

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.[46]

Public Policy Initiative

In May 2010, the Wikimedia Foundation announced the Public Policy Initiative, following a $1.2 million donation by the Stanton Foundation.[47] The Public Policy Initiative was set up to improve articles relating to public policy-related issues in the United States. Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, stated that "The Stanton Foundation wants to increase people's understanding of public policy-related issues, and supporting quality on Wikipedia is a great way to accomplish that goal".[47]

As part of the initiative, Wikipedia collaborated with ten universities to help students and professors create and maintain articles relating to public policy.[48] Volunteer editors of Wikipedia, known as "ambassadors", provided assistance to students and professors. This was either done on campus sites or online.[49]

Disputes and Lawsuits

Many disputes have resulted in litigation[50][51][52][53] while others have not.[54] 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."[55]


The Wikimedia Foundation relies on public contributions and grants to fund its mission.[56] It is exempt from federal income tax[56][57] and from state income tax.[56][58] It is not a private foundation, and contributions to it qualify as tax-deductible charitable contributions.[56] 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,[59][60] but is no longer open to new customers.[61] DBpedia was given access to this feed free of charge.[62]

At the beginning of 2006, the foundation's net assets were $270,000. During the year, the organization received support and revenue totaling $1,510,000, with concurrent expenses of $790,000. Net assets increased by $720,000 to a total of over one million dollars.[56] In 2007, the foundation continued to expand, ending the year with net assets of $1,700,000.[63] Both income and expenses nearly doubled in 2007.[63] Charity Navigator gave Wikimedia three out of four possible stars for fiscal years 2008 and 2009, which improved to four-stars in 2010.[64]

There are both supporting and opposing arguments regarding whether Wikimedia should switch to an advertising-based revenue model.[65]


In March 2008 the foundation announced a large donation, at the time its largest donation yet: a three-year, $3 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.[66] In 2009, the foundation received three grants – the first grant was a $890,000 Stanton Foundation grant and aimed to help study and simplify user interface for first-time authors of Wikipedia.[67] The second was a $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.[68] In August 2009, the foundation received a $500,000 grant from Hewlett Foundation.[69] In August 2009, the Omidyar Network issued a potential $2 million in "grant" funding to Wikimedia.[70] In 2010, Google donated $2 million to the Wikimedia Foundation.[71] In 2011, the Stanton Foundation donated a $3.6 million grant, the largest yet received by the Wikimedia Foundation.[72]


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


Wikimedia currently runs on dedicated clusters of Linux servers (mainly Ubuntu),[73][74] with a few OpenSolaris machines for ZFS. As of December 2009, there were 300 in Florida and 44 in Amsterdam.[75] Wikipedia employed a single server until 2004, when the server setup was expanded into a distributed multitier architecture. In January 2005, the project ran on 39 dedicated servers in Florida. This configuration included a single master database server running MySQL, multiple slave database servers, 21 web servers running the Apache HTTP Server, and seven Squid cache servers.

Wikipedia receives between 25,000 and 60,000 page requests per second, depending on time of day.[76] Page requests are first passed to a front-end layer of Squid caching servers.[77] Further statistics are available based on a publicly available 3-months Wikipedia access trace.[78] Requests that cannot be served from the Squid cache are sent to load-balancing servers running the Linux Virtual Server software, which in turn pass the request to one of the Apache web servers for page rendering from the database. The web servers deliver pages as requested, performing page rendering for all the language editions of Wikipedia. To increase speed further, rendered pages are cached in a distributed memory cache until invalidated, allowing page rendering to be skipped entirely for most common page accesses.


The operation of Wikimedia depends on MediaWiki, a custom-made, free and open source wiki software platform written in PHP and built upon the MySQL database.[79] 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[80] to extend the functionality of MediaWiki software. In April 2005 a Lucene extension[81][82] was added to MediaWiki's built-in search and Wikipedia switched from MySQL to Lucene for searching. Currently Lucene Search 2.1,[83] which is written in Java and based on Lucene library 2.3,[84] is used.


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External links

San Francisco Bay Area portal
Florida portal
Wikipedia portal

Documents (reports, plans etc.)