Wikipedia:Funding Wikipedia through advertisements

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For a short period during the foundation's 2009 fundraiser, there was a banner titled "Wikipedia: Ad-free forever." The banner was soon removed along with other controversial banners. See: Wikipedia:Village pump (proposals)/Fundraising headers#Abolish the silly headers and meta:Fundraising 2009/Launch Feedback.

In a comment dated March 7, 2008 on his Wikipedia talk page Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has stated

While I continue to oppose the introduction of any advertising in Wikipedia, I also continue to agree that the discussion should evolve beyond a simple binary. I believe that if we looked at putting ads into the search results page (only), with the money earmarked for specific purposes (with strong community input into what those would be, either liberation of copyrights or support for the languages of the developing world or...). As the Foundation continues to evolve into a more professional organization capable of taking on and executing tasks (yay Sue and the growing staff!), it begins to be possible to imagine many uses of money that would benefit our core charitable goals. Lest I be misunderstood: I am not saying anything new, but saying exactly what I have said for many years.

The issue has been the topic of ongoing discussion. Revenue generated from advertisements could improve the website and help achieve its goals. On the other hand, advertising may be at odds with the mission of a neutral, non-profit website which aims to educate.

Wikipedia is one of the most visited sites on the web.[1] Tens of millions of dollars could be generated if even just a few users allowed ads. With that money, the Wikimedia Foundation could increase server capacity, hire a larger staff, and improve various other Wikimedia projects such as Wiktionary and Wikinews. See: Possible uses for additional income.

There is a long history to this issue. See: strategy:Advertising, strategy:Category:Proposals on funding through advertising, meta:Polls, meta:Advertising on Wikipedia, meta:Opt-in Google-ads, Enciclopedia Libre, Wikipedia talk:Tools/1-Click Answers, and Wikipedia:User categories for discussion/Archive/December 2007#Wikimedia and advertising. See also the archives linked to the right of the table of contents on the talk page: Wikipedia talk:Funding Wikipedia through advertisements. This graph demonstrates some of the history of conversations about advertising on the Wikimedia Foundation's mailing list.[2]


There are currently no plans for advertising on Wikipedia. The current standpoint is that the Wikimedia Foundation should not carry advertisements. On the other hand, there is some interest in that Wikimedia itself will run advertisements, in order to increase traffic to Wikimedia Foundation fundraising and donations pages, under the assumption that increased traffic will lead to increased donations (see meta:Advertising proposal for more info).

A relevant comment from Jimmy Wales on his talk page is dated March 7, 2008, and here is the diff link to it. It needs to be read in context. The link to the relevant talk section is User talk:Jimbo Wales/Archive 35#Wikipedia:Advertisements

This topic has been raised again in late 2009 strategy discussions. See strategy:Category:Proposals on funding through advertising.

Arguments against adverts[edit]

Insignificant revenue. The click-through rate might very well be so low that only a small amount of revenue would be brought in by the ads. It would not be worth barraging thousands of readers with ads for only a few pennies of revenue.

Ads cheapen the encyclopedia. By their very nature, ads are biased content intended to influence people. They are thus diametrically opposed to the goals of a neutral encyclopedia intended to inform people. They would cheapen the encyclopedia in the eyes of many readers, as evidenced by the numerous anti-ad comments received during every donation drive.

Certain sensitive integrity-based processes are compromised when there exists any chance the process can be influenced by perceived pressures from the source of funding. As a society we have learned it is necessary to keep certain processes separate from their money sources. Examples include; Scientific Research where researchers have been tempted to conform to expectation in order to secure funding, The Judicial System where any external pressure to influence decision making is anathema to justice, and certainly as in the case of Wikipedia the collection and publication of information and viewpoint where even the possibility of influence from advertisers is sufficient to make Wikipedia's position of fairness and even handedness suspect. Human nature being what it is, the best preventative guidelines and intentions cannot safeguard against this often subtle and difficult to detect influence. The only assurance of freedom from advertiser influence is total separation from advertiser money.

Contributors may leave. Many contributors vigorously oppose ads (see the forking of the Spanish Wikipedia, 1, 2, 3, 4), and in 2009 the Wikimedia Foundation promised to keep "Wikipedia. Ad-free forever."[dead link]. Since about 2002, Jimbo Wales has repeatedly stated that he opposes all advertising on Wikipedia as well. Based on these statements, some editors have probably contributed with the understanding that their content would not be diluted with ads. Changing the long-standing no-ads policy now could reasonably be perceived as a bait and switch tactic. Numerous contributors are likely to leave as a result and new ones are less likely to start. Contributor goodwill is Wikipedia's main asset and should not be gambled with.

Annoying and distracting. Readers come to us for encyclopedic information, not for ads. Ads have to be processed by the brain (if only subconsciously) and therefore distract and annoy. "The free encyclopedia" also means: free from distractions and annoyances. Also, Wikipedia's limited color palette will be demoted by the 'gaudy' ads.

Privacy violation. If an ad consolidator such as Google AdSense is used, the privacy of our readers is compromised. The consolidator will invariably learn which Wikipedia articles a given IP address reads or searches for; they can then correlate that information with other data they may have about that IP address (e.g. Gmail account).

Changing customers. Right now, our customers are the readers and contributors and our product is an encyclopedia; we have to keep our customers happy in order to keep donations flowing. Once we switch to an ad-based funding model, the situation changes dramatically: our customers now are the advertisers, our product is the readers' attention, and it is this product that we sell to the customers.

Unnecessary. For several years now, the foundation has worked fine as a donation-based operation, running a top-ten website. Donations (and readership) are growing, the annual fundraiser is getting shorter and we have a growing group of repeat donors. By contrast the cost of running the site benefit from the improving price performance of computers, so the minimum necessary to keep the site running may well be falling.

Threat to neutrality of content. Companies which pay directly to advertise on Wikipedia may then feel entitled to favorable coverage about themselves in Wikipedia articles, or to content that is compatible with their message. For comparison, commercial television occasionally must change its content to placate its advertisers.[3]

Threat to independence of design. Companies which pay to put ads directly on Wikipedia will naturally care about their click-through rates. They will have an incentive to suggest layout changes to Wikipedia which increase their click-through rates, or they may try editing particular articles with a view to increasing click-throughs. Until now, Wikipedia has not had to worry about satisfying anyone but its users with its site and page layouts.

Something else to argue about. If a large amount of money begins flowing through Wikipedia, thousands of Wikipedia contributors might get distracted from editing and instead argue about where the money should go. This might become more of a problem if Wikipedia generates far more revenue than it needs for its own operation, and begins supporting outside charities.

Advertisers can also be users. In traditional media, advertisers can sometimes try to exert editorial control, but they must do so indirectly, as they lack physical access to the creative tools. In contrast, anyone can edit Wikipedia. Even without advertisements, we already have to delete many articles that are overly promotional; accepting advertisements might increase this.

Inappropriate ads. Without establishing strict oversight of ad placement, it is very likely that ads will appear on articles where their content, message, or mere presence, would be highly inappropriate or contrary to the nature of the article's content. Readers or contributors might be offended, or the main authors of those articles might leave.

Hacking danger. If ads are of served as plugins (e.g. Flash), they can deliver viruses to user computers; there have been many examples of this on major websites, where the advertising agency has let through seemingly-innocent ads that deliver viruses. (Even simple text ads, if they use certain common web elements like iframes of xhr requests, can transmit a compromise from the ad agency to the viewer; though this is far less likely than pictures and plugins. A vulnerability in image-display code can also make pictorial ads a vector for viruses.)

Conflict of interest. Some ads may be attempt to spread disinformation or be purposefully misleading; Wikipedia is about educating users; this can be seen as a conflict of interest.

Commitments made to donors. Wikimedia has been collecting donations on the basis of being advertising free; if it were to renege on that it would come under pressure to return that money.

The right to fork. It is inherent in the use of an open license that projects can fork. Thus far the largest fork away from Wikimedia was by a large part of the Spanish Wikipedia community who left because advertising was being considered. The adoption of advertising on Wikimedia sites would be very likely to precipitate a fork, and if the search engines were to favour the ad-free version over the one that competed with their ads then there would be a very good chance that the ad-free version would be more successful than the one with ads.

Trademark restrictions applying to Wikipedia Unlike copyrights, which are dealt with as fair use, trademarks are considered free content as they are used in Wikipedia. This is because Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, so there's no confusion with respect to the actual trademark holder in question that would constitute trademark infringement. Were Wikipedia to host ads, the use of trademarks would probably come under confusion as to whether the content is an advert or the article of the trademark holder, which could cause legal complications in that respect.

Arguments for adverts[edit]

One proposed implementation of ads on Wikipedia.

One of the most common arguments for adverts is that more funding could bring reliability and faster expansion to wikipedia.

Maybe it would not be bad to have a few discreet adverts, if it means we could get more servers, programmers, bandwidth, staff... There's a patch of whitespace on the left side of many Wikipedia pages that could be used for ads.

If text-based and small, ads would put no strain on the servers. The extra money generated by ads would allow the purchase of more servers.

Ads don't necessarily have to be distracting. Wikipedia could remain non-profit. The number of ads could be limited to current budgetary needs, or more ads could be used for setting aside money for future projects.

A trial with short contracts would make it easy to just "revert" back to the previous ad-less version. It has been estimated [1] [2] that such endeavors could potentially raise hundreds of millions of dollars.

The work of selecting the ads could be handled by an ad serving consolidator such as Google Adsense.

Another possibility is that all adverts would be screened. If this sounds like too much work for volunteers, extra staff could be hired, using the extra revenue from ads.

Adverts could use the Monobook colours, font and style in order to distract little from Wikipedia. Or they could have a separate background color so that readers would more clearly know that they are ads, and not click them by accident. One option could be that no images, animations, sounds, or anything too distracting would be allowed. Or readers could choose what they would allow.

Adverts could be placed unobtrusively at the bottom of the left side, just above the "A Wikimedia Project" image. Or the reader could choose to have ads placed anywhere they want.

Adverts could all have the same width, and be grouped by height, with greater heights costing more (up to a limit).

Adverts would only be shown on pages with enough whitespace to accommodate the largest category of advert. Or readers could choose to place ads on the side, top, or bottom of the page.

Instead of in-page ads that can distract and taint, advertising could be integrated as a link to a page of related classified advertising. For example, each article page could carry a link with the text "view advertisements for products and services related to this article". The linked page could carry a disclaimer that the page is not a comprehensive list of related vendors, but only those who have paid Wikimedia for placement, mentioning in what way factors like ad length and ad order are affected by payment.

Adverts can actually be useful to users.

Advertising income is arguably more independent than donations from foundations, which can all too easily be withdrawn.

Advertising income can be used to build a Wikipedia Foundation which can make Wikipedia more independent.

The argument against adverts "Ads cheapen the encyclopedia. By their very nature, ads are biased content intended to influence people" is weak and misaligned. The bias from advertisement is to sell a product, not to influence the content of the article.

If sufficient revenue were generated from adverts, contributors would no longer need to donate to the foundation, and could donate to other, life-saving causes for the victims of earth quake, floods, tsunami which helps in the preservation of human life.

Donation drives can already be seen as an advertising (due to banners and affecting the reading and viewing of an article) and may annoy users more, being begged to give money.

If Wikipedia had the ability to fund itself independently, the donations could be going to other charitable organizations incapable of funding themselves.

There is already a space for adverts underneath the menu. Meaning there is no need to change the layout or affecting the content.

Many people don't like it when Wikipedia runs banners begging for money, and say they would prefer ads.[4]

Arguments for optional adverts[edit]

See also: meta:Opt-in Google-ads, wikiHow, and strategy:WordPress.

In October 2009 Silicon Alley Insider said that Wikipedia would be "worth $5 billion if it tried to make money."[5]

According to the December 2010 Wikimedia Foundation Report there were 411 million global unique visitors to all Wikimedia Foundation projects in November 2010. The Huffington Post with over 25 million monthly unique visitors was sold to AOL for $315 Million in February 2011.[6][7] Wikimedia has over 16 times the number of monthly unique visitors as the Huffington Post, equivalent to $5.04 billion.

Compare to From their stats page in February 2011: "Over 277 million people view more than about 2.3 billion pages each month."[8][9][10] It doesn't take many ads to make a significant contribution. uses minimal as-needed ads. Most people don't know that the millions of free blogs[8] on the site are funded partially by ads, since only a few ads are used throughout the many blogs. It is unlikely that most readers will ever notice an ad. From their "Features You’ll Love" page[11]: "Advertising. To support the service we may occasionally show Google text ads on your blog, however we do this very rarely. You can remove ads from your blog for a low yearly fee." See also their advertising page[12]: "To support the service (and keep free features free), we also sometimes run advertisements. If you would like to completely eliminate ads from appearing on your blog, we offer the No-Ads Upgrade." has a worldwide Alexa traffic rank of 19 compared to Wikipedia's rank of 8 (as of February 2011).[13][1] Wikimedia Foundation sites had around 68 million unique visitors from the U.S. in September 2009 according to comScore. had 28 million unique visitors from the U.S. in September 2009.[14] has had explosive growth since it opened in August 2005 (see[15] Matt ( founder) explains their ad use that started in August 2006:

In November 2010 ReadWriteWeb wrote: "Wikipedia was the 12th most popular Web property in the U.S. in September, with comScore reporting nearly 80 million unique visitors for the month. By comparison, Google had 180 million, while Facebook had just under 150 million. But Wikipedia's English language content accounts for only a fifth of the collaborative encyclopedia's content. Looking at global traffic to Wikipedia, the site has doubled its monthly unique visitors since 2007, with just under 400 million in September. As opposed to its 12th place ranking in the U.S., these 400 million unique visitors make it the fifth most popular Web property in the world." [16]

Clicking a button to view ads puts more control back in the hands of the users, not the major contributors and endorsers. Wikipedia/Wikimedia can less and less afford to offend the large contributors and endorsers just as National Public Radio (NPR) and PBS can not afford to offend their many large "underwriters." See underwriting spot. This is why NPR and PBS put out mostly uncontroversial material that does not present all major viewpoints. Wikipedia on the other hand presents all sides due to WP:NPOV.

Matching funds and endorsements are effectively ads. There have been large Wikipedia-wide fundraising banners from major endorsers (Craig of Craigslist, etc.). See the Craigslist banner[dead link]. See the list of matching funds, and the large matching fund from eBay's founder, Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam.

Opt-in ads would come from tens of thousands of companies and organizations, and so no individual company could influence Wikipedia. Wikipedia presents a much fuller picture of any subject it covers, because of the WP:NPOV requirement to present all major viewpoints. Wikipedia gets by mainly on tens of thousands of small donations. This is the model of many funders that needs to be maintained, and not the NPR and PBS model with the possibility of offending the major "underwriters." Having many advertisers maintains the model of many funders, and makes the chilling effect of advertisers leaving unimportant. There are many more advertisers to replace them when using something like Google Adsense.

Another idea is to put advertising money into an endowment rather than spend it directly. This decouples current-period revenue from any current-period actions, and so might help maintain both the fact and the appearance of impartiality that is so crucial to Wikipedia. For more info see: strategy:Talk:Task force/Recommendations/Financial sustainability 1#Opt-in ads

Help fund Wikipedia. On/off button for ads.

The yearly fundraising banners on Wikipedia have a hide/show link that is remembered in subsequent sessions. It works for both registered and non-registered users, and is based on cookies. So there is already a system set up that could be adapted for an opt-in button.

Fewer and fewer people in Wikipedia Village Pump discussions oppose opt-in ads. It is mandatory ads that most people do not want. People want to help in many ways, and sometimes they can't donate money.

This is about user opt-in ads and user opt-out ads for Wikipedia readers. The default setting for logged-in, registered readers would always be no ads. They could individually choose to opt-in to see ads. Depending on the model used there could be various default ad settings for non-registered readers. Wikipedia may want the default setting to be no ads for all users. This way the "look and feel" of Wikipedia is not changed. People choose for themselves. This would be an opt-in model.

WikiHow, on the other hand, uses an opt-out model, and pays for all its operations with ad money. Non-registered readers normally see ads, but can opt out of ads. When a button was created for readers to opt out of ads for 24 hours ad revenue fell less than one percent.[17] WikiHow says they "were the first high traffic website to offer a 'hide ads' button." Readers can block ads for 24 hours by clicking the button. Those who are registered and logged in do not see ads.[18] WikiHow had 15.5 million unique readers in April 2009.[19] The advertising money has been sufficient to allow charitable donations also. For example; $48,000 to the Wikimedia Foundation.[20][21] WikiHow considers itself to be a hybrid business and organization – a 4th organizational structure combining features of 3 traditional organizational structures: businesses, non-profits, and government. Some other examples of hybrids are Wikia, Wikitravel, Firefox, Red Hat Linux, MySQL, Craigslist, SNPedia, and Newman’s Organics.[22] See also: Social enterprise, B Corporation (or "Benefit Corporation"), List of social enterprises, etc..

Ad settings. Readers could choose what kind of ads to allow. A system could be set up for controlling optional ads based on cookie settings. There could be a settings link that would allow the choice of top, bottom, and/or side placement of ads. Or concise or detailed ads. Or ads with or without Flash animation. A cookie would remember the choices.

Wikipedia would remain non-profit. As long as Wikipedia is a non-profit, consensus-seeking, democratic, board-run organization, then there is no danger of advertisers having any say in how Wikipedia is run. Some examples of nonprofit control of advertising, or search-related income, can be found in the non-profit Mozilla Foundation and its control of the Mozilla Corporation and its search-related income from Google, etc..

Advertising doesn't stop people from donating. Public radio and TV have multiple sources of help. During fund drives they tell people how much money they are trying to raise, and people either donate or they don't. Their ads (underwriting spots) have little to do with whether people donate.

If Wikipedia had more money, many problems could be solved. See: Possible uses for additional income, farther down. Ads could generate that money. Disturbed by how often Wikipedia slows down or crashes? This problem varies depending on various factors such as how far away one lives from Wikipedia servers. The Wikimedia Foundation could get more hardware. It could hire more staff, programmers, developers, etc..

More money may also help Wikimedia in more rapidly developing unified, integrated watchlists. See various discussions: [3] [4]. Integrated watchlists would greatly increase the number of people editing other projects such as Wikibooks, Wikimedia Commons, Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikiquote, Wikinews, Wikiversity, Wikijunior, Wikispecies, and additional projects. There are many proposed projects that integrated watchlists could help. See: meta:Category:Proposed projects and meta:Proposals for new projects. These projects are not being done because there is not enough participation in (and thus donations for) existing projects. So new projects aren't started. If people could have some integrated watchlists set up the way they like them, then there would be more participation, growth, and donations.

People could select which watchlists to unify, and which ones to keep separate. People could have more than one integrated watchlist. Many new English-speaking editors (less than 5 edits a month) quit because there is little room for new interesting articles on English Wikipedia. People can't be bothered to open multiple watchlists, especially new editors who barely understand watchlists, signatures, time stamps, etc.. Other Wikimedia projects have a great need for editors (new and old), and a wide range of topics to cover.

Optional ads and Wikipedia forks[edit]

If necessary, there is no technical or financial reason a fork of a particular Wikipedia (pick a language) could not be done. Wikis outside Wikimedia can already use Commons images via InstantCommons. It is also not technically necessary to use servers one owns. There are many large commercial server farms with servers spread worldwide that could handle the Wikipedia bandwidth needs. They have dynamic load balancing and can handle any fluctuations in bandwidth needs. The Wikipedia fork could still be nonprofit, and could raise money the same way through fundraising drives. Also, if necessary, opt-in ads could be allowed for a while. The money raised from all sources would pay for the many technical staff necessary to maintain the MediaWiki software on the servers. Opt-in ads would allow the Wikipedia fork to do many things currently not possible due to the lack of enough Wikimedia Foundation funds to spread around to over 200 Wikipedias in many languages. More funds could allow for more paid local staff, and funding of independent developers of MediaWiki extensions, global, cross-wiki, integrated watchlists, etc..

Semi-profit Benefit Corporations using ads[edit]

Note. Some of the info discussed below references discussion at User talk:Jimbo Wales that is archived here. There is Village Pump discussion archived here.

Various Wikimedia projects such as Wikiversity, Wikinews, etc. are stagnating and would be greatly helped by more money. Making them into semi-profit Benefit Corporations under Wikimedia Foundation control would allow these Wikimedia projects to get more money by using ads without fear of advertisers wielding control. See also: Social enterprise. It has info on semi-profit organizations like Benefit Corporations, etc..

If there were paid staff just for each of these projects combined with the social enterprise goals, then things like Wikiversity, Wikinews, and Wikibooks could do much more.

Maybe the Wikimedia Foundation can study the Mozilla Foundation model. The Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit organization that acts as an umbrella for-profit subsidiaries.

From the Mozilla Foundation article: It "owns two taxable for-profit subsidiaries: the Mozilla Corporation, which employs several Mozilla developers and coordinates releases of the Mozilla Firefox web browser, and Mozilla Messaging, Inc., which primarily develops the Mozilla Thunderbird email client."

A Benefit Corporation is a legal designation for socially responsible businesses. Here is some info:

From this article in the Washington Post:

"At its core, benefit corporations blend the altruism of nonprofits with the business sensibilities of for-profit companies. These hybrid entities pay taxes and can have shareholders, without the risk of being sued for not maximizing profits. Companies can consider the needs of customers, workers, the community or environment and be well within their legal right."

Collaborative knowledge work needs to spread much more widely beyond Wikipedia. There is not much good work elsewhere. Attempts have been made, but 100% for-profit models do not seem to do very high level work (not like the quality of info at Wikipedia), and 100% non-profit models are marginal and frequently disappear to due lack of funding. Hybrid models of organization seem to be working and expanding in areas outside collaborative knowledge work.

The following is from discussion at User talk:Jimbo Wales that is archived here.

Timeshifter, I wanted to thank you for bringing this to my attention. I've had a longstanding interest in hybrid models, due to the limitations of both the non-profit and for-profit models. While I don't think "under the control of the Wikimedia Foundation" for-profit subsidiaries is the right way forward, you should feel free to pitch the idea to the board. It's certainly interesting.
Camelbinky, let me give one example of how a for-profit (or semi-profit) model might benefit a project. Most of our smaller projects feel a somewhat justified neglect - the Foundation's primary focus has to be on Wikipedia because it is so big. We know, for example, that the software we use at Wikipedia is optimized for writing an encyclopedia, but isn't really awesome for Wikinews (for example). I can envision lots of things that could be done to improve Wikinews with some investment, investment that the Foundation isn't in a position to make. But imagine if Wikinews could raise $4 million in venture capital, with the investors expecting to make a return from an advertising-based business model, but also with the "Benefit corporation" charter giving very clear and legally enforceable rights to the community of editors, for example mandating editorial independence, NPOV, pursuit of quality, etc. You can tinker with this idea all you want, because the precise details aren't the point: the point is that in a hybrid model, the organization can be well-funded, provide a good return to investors, and still pursue social goals.
In the past, I've thought about various ideas about what can be done to help Wikinews realize its potential. I've thought about Wikinews being spun out into a separate non-profit, so that it can have an organization that focuses only on Wikinews... but such a non-profit could very well not survive. Unlike Wikipedia, Wikinews simply isn't popular enough to count on sufficient support from its readers and editors. (Maybe, maybe not... I think not.)
Ok, what about spinning Wikinews out and having it be a for-profit? Well, I don't see how that really makes sense. Anyone can start a for-profit wiki-based news site anytime they want, and in our considered business judgment at Wikia, we've not (yet) seen that as a viable alternative.
But maybe a hybrid model could work. I don't know for sure. But it's certainly interesting to think about.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 18:20, 19 May 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, it's very interesting. I am not advocating for any particular arrangement in the future, and of course I'm not the decision maker on such things, the entire board of directors of the Wikimedia Foundation is. However, I personally would invite and support proposals for novel institutional arrangements that might be beneficial for some of our other projects that could likely flourish if given appropriate resources. This is not a top priority for the board right now, but I think it's worthy of sustained discussion in the community.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 12:08, 20 May 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Wikiversity is not doing very well. The main problem is the poor funding mechanism, the annual Wikipedia fundraising. Also, there is no integration of one's Wikiversity watchlist with one's Wikipedia watchlists. People are working occasionally on that, but no one seems to be working on the funding. Accepting ads on Wikiversity pages could solve that problem. Wikimedia may never allow that. So the Benefit Corporation model may have to be used for a wikiversity fork. Or for another organization altogether.

Strictly for-profit sites can be bought and sold, and their initial leadership can change to the point that they start deleting lots of stuff, and completely lose their social enterprise utility. They "sell out", lose their way, or otherwise lose focus. They also do not use a completely free license for info on their sites.

Whether a site has ads or not does not indicate whether the site's info is completely free or not. Wikia is for profit and uses a completely free license, CC BY-SA. Many for-profit sites use a CC BY or CC BY-SA license. The problem is whether one trusts a solely for-profit site to keep that info up on the web without spinning it, or whether they may just decide to go in another direction and delete most of the CC BY or CC BY-SA info and focus. Both for-profit and non-profit sites disappear all the time. Semi-profit sites may have better longterm survival possibilities, better funding, and a longterm social enterprise focus.

Public radio is non-profit and has ads. Public radio is not nearly as WP:NPOV as Wikipedia, though. Public radio is too dependent on government money, and spins much of what they do to not offend politicians. Wikipedia shows far more viewpoints on any issue.

Most of the for-profit sites are tame in their coverage of issues, mostly because they have a fiduciary requirement to make profit above all else. This is another reason semi-profit sites are needed using Benefit Corporation incorporation, or similar. They are not required to make a profit.

Income from search tools on Wikipedia pages[edit]

See this December 2011 article: Google Paying Mozilla Almost $1B for Firefox Search: Why?. "Google contributed 84 percent of Mozilla's $123 million revenue in 2010. ... And the new contract guarantees to give Mozilla revenue and Google search prominence for the better part of three years. At nearly $300 million a year, that works out to just under $1 billion for Mozilla."

See this 2006 article also: The $6 million a year search box solution that will keep ads OFF of Wikipedia.

Some people support the idea of getting paid for putting Google, Bing, etc. as the default search tool on Wikipedia. Most people support this only if the search result pages are on the sites of the search providers. That way the ads are never on Wikipedia pages.

From AdSense#AdSense for search is this:

"A companion to the regular AdSense program, AdSense for search, allows website owners to place Google search boxes on their websites. When a user searches the Internet or the website with the search box, Google shares any advertising revenue it makes from those searches with the website owner. However the publisher is paid only if the advertisements on the page are clicked: AdSense does not pay publishers for mere searches."

The default search engine for Wikipedia could be auctioned off to the highest bidder among Google, Bing, etc.. Google and Bing search options could be among the search options in a dropdown search menu that is part of a single-line search form at the top of all Wikipedia pages. The search form could be placed to the left of the user name to make it more prominent. With this more prominent placement the search form would be used more, and millions of dollars a year could be raised by charging Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft for putting their search engines as options in the dropdown menu along with the existing in-house Wikipedia search tool. The search results for the commercial search engines would open up in new tabs, and would have no Wikipedia logos on the search result pages. This way the ads would not be on Wikipedia pages. The search result pages would be on the sites of the commercial search providers.

The nonprofit Firefox browser has such a searchbar at the top of its browsers. Firefox received 61.5 million dollars in search royalties in 2006. See Mozilla Foundation#Financing. Nearly all of the royalty money came from Google.

Many people would choose to do Google-Yahoo-Microsoft-Amazon-eBay-Flickr-etc. searches via a Wikipedia searchbar over using the Firefox search form. This is because many people want some search royalties to go to the Wikimedia Foundation, too. Also, the Wikipedia search form is closer to what the reader is reading.

In the Firefox browser, one can add even more dropdown menu options. For example; options to use the search tools at Technorati, IMDb, Live Search,, Merriam-Webster dictionary, Yahoo Answers, Creative Commons,, etc.. Any or all of the search engines can be removed by the user. It is all done via "Manage Search Engines" in the dropdown menu. People love good searchbars.

If there were more search options in the Wikipedia searchbar, then the open-source search tool would be improved by the competition. Especially if a "search wikipedia" option button were added next to the searchbar. Then for searches of Wikipedia the Google and Yahoo search tools would compete directly with the existing open-source tool.

Many people currently search Wikipedia by using the "Search only on the current Web site" button on the secondary Google Toolbar installed on their browsers. Or they use this search bookmark below, and then add search terms:

The {{Google custom}} template (and its variants, such as {{Google wikipedia}}), provide a functionally similar search link to a cleaner search form; growing numbers of Wikipedia users are adding such links to their user pages, or setting up custom Google searches on subpage trees within Wikipedia (such as a search on the Help desk archive pages).

In the Firefox browser a shortcut keyword such as "w" can be set up. Then type "w <search terms>" in the address bar of Firefox to search Wikipedia for information. For more info see: [5] [6] [7].

In 2006 the Mozilla Foundation received US$66.8 million in revenues, of which 61.5 million is attributed to "search royalties".[23]

The Mozilla foundation has an ongoing deal with Google to make Google search the default in the Firefox browser searchbar. A Firefox-themed Google search site has also been made the default home page of Firefox. A footnote in Mozilla's 2006 financial report states "Mozilla has a contract with a search engine provider for royalties. The contract originally expired in November 2006 but was renewed for two years and expires in November 2008. Approximately 85% of Mozilla’s revenue for 2006 was derived from this contract." This equates to approximately US$56.8 million.[23]

Income through sponsored links[edit]

Wiki articles are very particular. If you are reading through Thermal Conductivity, then chances are you are interested in optimizing, simulating or measuring it. Usually these involve highly specialized tools and services, and this can generate revenue for Wikipedia in one of a few ways.

• Wikipedia enables users to allow Google/Bing/etc to track their browsing habits. This can lead to more relevant ads that the user will see when browsing a site with AdSense and the like.
• Wikipedia auctions off sponsored links in the front/end of the page based on user preference. This section can be minimized by default and will help specialized businesses engage with potential customers while lowering friction when compared to the donate banner.

Option to become a paid facilitator and possibly educator for disaster relief, well-vetted charities and possibly environmental activism?[edit]

Why not charge a negligible fee, such as 0.5% of most donations, for requesting donations for other worthy nonprofit organizations? This could simultaneously raise millions for Wikipedia and billions for charities. There are numerous possible variations of such a policy:

• As the donor clicks on the donation ad, there might be a checkbox stating, "send 0.5% of donation to Wikipedia." Each donor then can either uncheck the box or modify the percentage as desired.
• Wikipedia can limit itself to helping definitively "neutral" charities, such as the Red Cross and major Humane Society organizations.
• Or, Wikipedia can slightly tarnish its "neutrality" halo, by taking a stand on issues which are scientifically as irrefutable as grammar and punctuation, in spite of the fact that powerful lobbies claim them to be "debatable": such as reducing greenhouse gasses and reducing cigarette smoking.
• I.e., Wikipedia can not only ask for donations for environmental action and education organizations--but also can "take a stand" and educate people in the same small ad on every page. This need not necessarily be less "neutral" than supermarkets having posters, "remember to bring your reusable bags."
• Conversely, Facebook's software automatically reinforces whatever prejudices or "denials" the user desires. And National Geographic's magazine and television channels--primary educator of climate change--has been taken over by Fox News, primary "climate change denier."
• I.e., with the future of the planet at stake, the world might need a force that is slightly less than "neutral" in order to balance the non-neutrality of the world.
• I.e., when Jews were being cremated at Auschwitz, it might not have been a bad thing for something like Wikipedia to advertise this fact on every page, as well as ask for donations for related relief organizations. In spite of any "neutrality" or "non-advertising" doctrine.
• I.e., the "neutrality" doctrine of Wikipedia, if taken to extremes, can be analogous to the following alleged account of a famous pacifist, who discovered that he had valuable investments in weapons manufacturing, made during his earlier life. He could have donated the proceeds to an antiwar group. Instead, he threw them in the fire. This of course made him feel more righteous. In fact, however, this was a gift to the weapons manufacturers.
• The originator of this subsection considers the above to be an example of what he calls the "Pontius Pilate syndrome." Pontius Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent according to all the facts. He plainly said so. However, his primary concern was not justice or truth, but to be able to claim "my hands are clean." This might be perceived as a ubiquitous human tendency regardless of whether one considers the biblical account to be factual.
• In any case, even if the Wikipedia administration continues to cherish total perceived "neutrality," it is certainly possible to do so--and amply to raise donations for Wikipedia, for disaster relief and for numerous worthy causes.
Please especially consider that this suggestion--soliciting money for other nonprofits plus Wikipedia--need not be any different from what Wikipedia is already doing--soliciting money for Wikipedia! Why only ask for Wikipedia and not for others, equally worthy, or more worthy? It is arguably hypocritical to say, "We don't do that." A byword for this new direction might be, "Helping other helpers deemed by Wikipedia administrators to be more worthy than Wikipedia."
• (The originator of this subsection is not a frequent editor and had great difficulty attempting to determine whether this suggestion had been made and if not where to make it. He remains somewhat uncertain. Consequently, he will attempt to post this statement into three pages, asking pardon and deletion if this is inappropriate: "Advertising on Wikipedia" and "Funding Wikipedia through advertisements" and "Wikimedia Direction Notice." Krystof Huang 19:25, 13 September 2017 (UTC))

Possible uses for additional income[edit]

There are many existing projects, and many proposed projects, that need money, servers, and staff. See: meta:Category:Proposed projects and meta:Proposals for new projects.

There is a basic need to pay more developers to fix the 4000+ bugs listed in the Bugzilla Weekly Reports. This is an example of a basic need. Secondary goals may be unrealistic until basic needs are met. Such as expanding bandwidth, users, servers, and maintenance staff worldwide. Donations may never be enough to cover these currently unmet basic needs. Many users want faster access, and more servers in their countries, or closer to their countries.

The additional income could be used for countless things to grow the project and spread knowledge. Wikipedia is one of the most visited sites on the web. Tens of millions of dollars could be generated from search tool revenues, or from even a few users allowing ads. Hundreds of millions of dollars, even billions of dollars yearly, could be raised if many users allowed ads.

With that money, the Wikimedia Foundation could increase site speed, lessen downtime, increase server capacity, hire a larger staff, and improve various other Wikimedia projects such as Wiktionary and Wikinews. Additional money and registered users would help in more rapidly ramping up additional projects.


There are userboxes for those users who support/oppose the use of advertisements on Wikipedia:

Code Result Users
{{User:Audacity/Userboxes/No ads}}
This user opposes the installation of any kind of advertisements on Wikimedia Foundation operated sites.
{{User:Disavian/Userboxes/No Ads}}
This user stands against advertisements on Wikipedia.
{{Template:User Noads-alt}}
This user is against advertisements on Wikipedia.
{{Template:User wikipedia non commercial}}
no adsThis user is against commercials in Wikipedia.
{{User:Timeshifter/Userboxes/Search tools}}
This user supports search-tool income on a nonprofit
{{User:Timeshifter/Userboxes/Search-related ads}}
This user supports search-related ads on a nonprofit
{{User:Timeshifter/Userboxes/Optional ads 2}}
I support on/off buttons for opt-in ads on a nonprofit Wikipedia for all readers (via cookies).
{{User:Timeshifter/Userboxes/Optional Ads}}
This user supports opt-in ads on Wikipedia (via user preferences).
This user supports the use of ads on Wikipedia.
{{Template:User Wikipedia financing ads}}

The use of low visibility ads in a not-for-profit Wikipedia is the best financing solution for it.

The number of users transcluding any of the user boxes is not an accurate representation of the viewpoints of current Wikipedia users and readers. There has been very little discussion of optional ads or search income in the wider Wikipedia community. There was a very loud community-wide discussion concerning mandatory ads back around 2001. No community-wide discussion or representative poll has ever been taken concerning optional ads or search income.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b " Traffic, Demographics and Competitors - Alexa".
  2. ^ The foundation-l Archives.
  3. ^ Erik Barnouw, The Sponsor: Notes on a Modern Potentate, Oxford University Press, 1978 & 2005
  4. ^ "French Wikipedia Editors Want $6,000 To Buy Cheese (Which Raises Some Questions About The Site's Finances)".
  5. ^ The SAI 50+: World's Most Valuable Internet Startups. Oct. 28, 2009 article on Silicon Alley Insider.
  6. ^ AOL Buys Huffington Post for $315 Million, Arianna To Head AOL Media. By Sam Gustin. February 7, 2011. Wired News.
  7. ^ " Audience Insights and Demographic Analytics - Quantcast".
  8. ^ a b " ‹ Log In".
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ The Features You’ll Love —
  12. ^ Advertising « Support —
  13. ^ " Traffic, Demographics and Competitors - Alexa".
  14. ^ comScore Media Metrix Ranks Top 50 U.S. Web Properties for September 2009. comScore. See Table 3.
  15. ^ Down Memory Lane With By Jeffro. July 31, 2009. History timeline using Wayback Machine internet archive.
  16. ^ Wikipedia: We Need $16 Million To Stay Free. By Mike Melanson. November 15, 2010. ReadWriteWeb.
  17. ^ Turning the Ads Off. January 30, 2009. By Marisa Taylor. Digits (, The Wall Street Journal.
  18. ^ wikiHow:Why Hide Ads - wikiHow.
  19. ^ wikiHow:Statistics - wikiHow.
  20. ^ wikiHow:Contributions to Charity - wikiHow.
  21. ^ wikinews:Jack Herrick, WikiHow founder interviewed by Wikinews. January 31, 2009.
  22. ^ "wikiHow:Hybrid Organization - wikiHow".
  23. ^ a b Independent Auditor's Report and Consolidated Financial Statements. December 31, 2006 and 2005. Mozilla Foundation and Subsidiary.