Is $10 million too much to run Wikipedia?

I love Wikipedia. I refer to it regularly and link to it frequently. It has made learning easy and brought vast knowledge into homes across the globe.

As you've likely heard, Wikipedia is facing some significant financial problems. The founder, Jimmy Wales, has even put a plea up on every page of the site asking for donations (as of 12/31/09 he has raised more than 2/3 of his fundraising goal for 2010). But, here's what I don't get (and if you're a small business owner or techie, please help me understand this): why does it take $10 million dollars a year to run Wikipedia? I don't have an MBA, but that seems like too much to me.

Lots of news sites are toying with the idea of instituting pay walls, and perhaps this might be in Wikipedia's future, as well. And, heck, if I frequent a site regularly, I might consider paying for the privilege. But, as a "donor" (it's the nonprofit arm of Wikipedia that is soliciting the funds) I'd like to feel confident that my donation is being spent wisely.

Do you run your own small business (Wikipedia has fewer than 35 employees)? Do you understand all the technical requirements and costs associated with a robust site like Wikipedia? If so, I'd really like your opinion. Is $10 million reasonable to operate Wikipedia for just one year?


  1. I'm going to go out on a limb here, but my guess would be the infrastructure costs could certainly be a good reason why $10 million is a valid number. Data centers, Web hosting, legal fees, not to mention at least 10 things I'm probably not even thinking about - all of that costs money (obviously) but on a scale much larger than your typical company. Ask yourself this question - who doesn't use Wikepedia? Of those that use it, maybe 2% are internal? The rest are people from all over the planet and those people have write access to the site. That can be quite a strain when you think about it. The average corporate website doesn't allow customers to make updates which of course, Wikipedia does.

    Just my .02 - I'm sure someone else will have more to say and with more knowledge on the subject.

  2. Tom,

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on the matter. I honestly haven't a clue of the costs associated with such an enterprise and your analysis sounds logical. Thanks so much for giving me your take on the matter. I appreciate it a bunch.


  3. You're welcome! I'll be checking back to see if you get any other replies. I'm interested to see what other people have to say on the matter.


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