Wikipedia has a lot to be celebrating on its 15th birthday and current Wikipedia leaders, including co-founder Jimmy Wales, are using the milestone to ensure the site continues to grow for years to come. Enter the Wikipedia Endowment and its $100 million goal to provide a financial backbone for the ad-free non-profit.
A healthy endowment is the sign of any thriving non-profit, providing a constant source of revenue even in years when fundraising may slack, due to things like economic recessions. (The site is also famous for its very effective annual fundraising drive. Don’t worry. It’s not going anywhere.)
The annual fundraising drive has proven successful at raising money in areas where Wikipedia is most popular but lags in those places the site most hopes to expand in coming years. Countries like India and China as well as Nigeria, Egypt, and Pakistan are all forecasted to see major increases in internet use, and Wikipedia wants to be their source and repository of knowledge.
Such global ambitions require the ability to invest in tailoring the current Wikipedia to a new audience. Wikipedia was designed by and for those of us who use the internet primarily on laptops, and so it can be hard to read and particularly edit Wikipedia from a mobile device. In China alone, more people already access the internet from a mobile device than a traditional computer — a telling sign of how Wikipedia will have to adapt to stay relevant.
The digital encyclopedia is hoping the new endowment will allow it to attract and retain volunteers in these developing areas of the world to help improve the Mandarin, Hindi, and Arabic Wikipedias, which have lagged due to the original focus on Western audiences.
In this 2013 video (below), Wales talks about expanding Wikipedia in other languages, saying, “280 million people are speaking Hindi, but we only have about 50,000 entries in Hindi. Long way to go.”
Overall, Wikipedia contains just over 36 million total articles and can claim 80,000 volunteers churning out an additional 7 thousand new articles every hour in addition to their 15 thousand edits an hour.
Back in the early 2000s, after the demise of a short-lived encyclopedia project called Nupedia that relied on a time-consuming peer review process, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger turned to the open internet with a new idea. On January 15, 2001, they went live with Wikipedia.
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