back to article Wikipedia won't stop BEGGING for cash - despite sitting on $60m

The latest accounts for the charity behind Wikipedia show it has assets of $60m, including $27m in ready cash: up more than $12m from 2013. That's far more than the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) needs to run a website. And the timing is embarrassing: Wikipedia is currently begging for more cash to (in its own words) "keep …

  1. Luc Le Blanc
    Thumb Down

    Ads worse than begging banner?

    When I think I once gave 25$ to WPF. Now, I'd rather have ads than a begging banner. Or maybe I should add it to AdBlock...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Holmes

      Re: Ads worse than begging banner?

      No, the worse thing about Wikipedia is not the banners. It's all the opinionated BS that is passed off as fact, and the millions of broken links.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ads worse than begging banner?

        Upside Down Christmas Tree

        I used Wikipedia to read up on this. On their page for this, it is claimed it was first introduced as a marketing scheme, and honestly it could of been (I don't care). However, their source was the ONLY source for this claim. Unsurprisingly, there are numerous sources that align in origin of many beliefs that in no way suggest that its origins are of marketing. So 1 vs. MANY. How could you possibly cite Wikipedia with when there is such little background information in their sources?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Holmes

          Re: Ads worse than begging banner?

          In my experience, most Wikipedia sources no longer exist at all if they ever did. Broken links or links to non-existent material seem to comprise the majority of their sources, and appear to be written in as "support" for the editor's opinions. Another problem is that links that do work are often to a source that is completely contradictory to the opinion formed by the Wikipedia editor.

          Wikipedia used to be somewhat useful when you could follow their links and form your own opinion of the source materials. But now? Worse than worthless as far as I can tell.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Ads worse than begging banner?

        > the millions of broken links

        This state of affairs is inevitable, given how long lived many articles are; I've often encountered this same problem when preparing technical documents over a period of a few months, discovering content that has changed, moved etc..

        What is irritating are those references and sources where only a URL has been given. Once these are broken, locating the referenced source can be challenging. At least where a publication is named, you can (potentially) go to a decent library and look the article up. But as more and more is published on the Internet this will become more problemmatic, both to users and Wikipedia editors (how can you tell if a revision is correct or not, if you can't access the original sources to determine the correctness or otherwise of the original wiki article?).

    2. dan1980

      Re: Ads worse than begging banner?

      @Luc Le blanc

      Whatever you - or anyone else - might think of the WMF, there is a clear reason to prefer donations over ads: ads introduce potential conflicts of interest.

      Mr Orlowski clearly has issues with WMF but I am sure that, in his role as editor of The Register, he is familiar with the accusations that get leveled at any website where there is seen to be a vested interest in keeping the advertisers happy and not saying anything to upset them.

      There are enough criticisms of Wikipedia without adding that.

      1. VBF

        Re: Ads worse than begging banner?

        Seeing as how Wikipedia's main interest is Wikipedia, a few ads aren't going to matter much in the "conflict of interest" stakes. And, anyone who believes ANYTHING on the 'net without checking multiple sources.....well!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Straight into a special account

    The IBAN on Wikipedias page is a Swiss Post Office account in Zurich. Why do Jimmy and the board feel the need to put the donations into a Swiss account when the head office is in San Francisco.

    Even though they are a Post Office per se, ( They are actually a bank), they also are held to the "Secret Bancaire." which means that no-one can take a nosey though the accounts.

    So before you start making big donations, ask yourself some questions about how the money is really being used....

    When it smells like fish.....

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Straight into a special account

      Swiss bank accounts are no longer secret. They have information sharing agreements with the IRS and with the tax authorities of EU countries.

      1. ratfox Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Straight into a special account

        The reason they are not using a bank in San Francisco is that it would probably only accept checks sent by post. Try asking a US bank for an IBAN, you'll see where it gets you…

        1. Khaptain Silver badge

          Re: Straight into a special account

          >Try asking a US bank for an IBAN

          Did someone forget to tell the USA that we have been in the Digital Age for quite some years already ?

          1. Def Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: Straight into a special account

            Did someone forget to tell the USA that we have been in the Digital Age for quite some years already?

            I think someone sent them an email. Maybe it's still downloading...

  3. PGTART

    look under begging notable beggers..

    1. Robin

      Nice! It's been reverted now though.

  4. John Lilburne Silver badge

    Wikpedia ...

    ... is in constant threat of being extinguished. Removal of a child's photo of a butterfly and they cry that wikipedia will collapse. Pending changes - wikipedia will collapse. Image filter so you don't get some crap porn when you multimedia search for "tolling bell" - wikipedia will collapse. Removal of biographies of z-list celebrities and wikipedia will collapse. Google not linking of decades old, out dated information has Wales screaming wikipedia will collapse.

  5. Smitty Werbenjaegermanjensen
    Holmes

    Rather begging than pimping

    My view is that I'd rather have Wikipedia seek donations (beg for money) than place paid advertisements - once advertisers start funding it, they'll be after editorial control either subtly or not so. While Wikipedia's veracity is sometimes questionable, I'd rather it was because of human error than down to the influence of the filthy lucre.

    I just wish they could do it more subtly rather than the big yellow boxes and the 'sky is falling' messages which just turn people off.

  6. Mikel

    Endowment

    I am OK with Wikimedia building up such a surplus of funds that it need never ask for money again. It isn't like people aren't giving freely.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Endowment

      And which part of the 'Engineering' department do you work in?

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Endowment

        OOh! Think I touched a nerve with a couple of employees there.

        There are several pro money for Wikipedia comments here that almost look as if they were dictated.

        I find Wikipedia useful and probably look up something two or three times a week, however if they did not exist I would just search past where they would have been and most of the time still find the info' I am looking for.

        My Little Pony included.

        Wikipedia is so big it makes for lazy searching, not necessarily a bad thing but it does lay them open to the often made comment about biased writers and editors because many searchers don't go beyond the 'top of the search' wiki article and the bias becomes accepted as gospel.

        That is why I would not donate to them, if the content was guaranteed bias free then I might be so inclined but not when they clearly have a large surplus and a penchant for spending that money on possibly spurios things without being accountable.

        Downvote me as much as you like, it's your right as much as it's mine to have this opinion.

  7. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: 60 Million Dollars!!

      > To me, it always appeared to be one of the most useful sites on the internet.

      Not getting around much?

  8. cdegroot
    Thumb Down

    And they're squandering the money in other ways too

    I stopped donating when I read last year's annual report. Not only do they have a staff that might be oversized, but your donations also end up in all sorts of endowments for media projects and research. I'm fine with funding their servers, I could even understand them having some fat (although they're overdoing it, it seems), but if (a part of) your money goes straight to whatever projects someone (no clue who) thinks are interesting and worth funding... That's the proverbial drop.

    1. dan1980

      Re: And they're squandering the money in other ways too

      @cdegroot

      A better option would be to offer donors options of how their money will be used. This is something that some charities are doing, allowing you to donate to the charity generally or to specific appeals or causes or countries, right down the the specific project or item in some cases. Some allow you to contribute to the admin costs separately.

      This would be the best way for WMF to set this up - have options so you can give to the foundation as a whole, to one group or another or even to a direct component, such as server costs or the various initiatives.

      That would allow people to focus their money on those areas and projects they personally support. (Or make use of.)

  9. DougS Silver badge

    Better to beg for money $3 at a time

    Than take millions from the Koch brothers or George Soros and articles start subtly being revised to fit their political slant.

    I'm more concerned about the poster above who says the money is going into a Swiss bank account. If true, what possible reason could there be for that, unless the founders want to skim some of it without anyone finding out?

    1. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: Better to beg for money $3 at a time

      Maybe because they want to take donations from all over the world and the Swiss can actually make that happen? Many of the same qualities that attract money launders, tax cheats and kleptocrats are also attract honest business.

      Jayzus! I need to got take a shower - I'm not only defending Wikipedia but Swiss Banks...

  10. h4rm0ny

    I used to donate.

    I'm perfectly able and willing to help pay for a site that I make use of and I would prefer to pay than the site go ad-supported (and all that comes with it). I've donated to Wikipedia a number of times in the past.

    But I stopped when they tried to take the product of someone else's work on a technicality (the "Simian Selfie") and decided that not only did they not care about the individual who paid for the equipment, set everything up, spent many days slowly becoming accepted by the macaques and had specifically travelled around the world to photograph them and did all the post processing on the image - all on a legally untested contention of theirs; they also wanted to set themselves up as the moral arbitrators of right and wrong. The Wikipedia page on the subject is the smuggest little thing I've ever seen on there, dripping with fake objectiveness. Clued me in to the nature of some of the people there. Not impressed.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  11. Jan 0

    I was surprised to see how little it costs to run the web services.

    Nonetheless I'm pleased that they have a surplus that will allow them to weather storms and pay for research. This has to be by far the most ingenious and useful service on the World Wide Web. I and millions of other donors don't take offence at the occasional appeal, but realise that this is amazing value for money. If we don't support it, it will die. If it starts accepting advertising it will become the advertisers' dead poodle. Advertising is the unspoken madness of the modern world.

    Last week was not the first, and certainly won't be the last, time I gave them a donation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I was surprised to see how little it costs to run the web services.

      > If we don't support it, it will die.

      Can you actually prove that assertion? Serious question. It may appear obvious to you, but it isn't.

      1. graeme leggett

        Re: I was surprised to see how little it costs to run the web services.

        well, if someone (or something) doesn't support it, it will die.

        The question is, is it being overfunded

  12. Nate Amsden Silver badge

    they are emailing too

    got this a short time ago (after I read el reg story)

    Dear (me),

    Thank you for helping keep Wikipedia online and ad-free. I’m sure you’re busy, so I’ll get right to it. We need your help again this year. Please help us forget about fundraising and get back to improving Wikipedia.

    [..]

    If all our past donors simply gave again today, we wouldn't have to worry about fundraising for the rest of the year.

    [..]

    To protect our independence, we'll never run ads. We take no government funds. We survive on donations from our readers. Now is the time we ask.

    If Wikipedia is useful to you, please take one minute to keep it online and ad-free another year.

    [..]

    Thanks,

    Jimmy Wales

    Wikipedia Founder

    1. Sureo

      Re: they are emailing too

      I got that email too. I'd like to know where they got my email address.

  13. jonathanb Silver badge

    Assets is not the correct figure to look at

    For a charity, the number you need to look at is "free reserves", which isn't a number on the balance sheet, but may be in the Trustee's report, or you can work it out yourself.

    Assets that the charity needs in order to carry out its activities, such as the servers the site is hosted on are not free reserves. The cash is, provided it isn't restricted funds, but you need to deduct the liabilities and commitments[1] from that.

    [1] Commitments are also not shown on the balance sheet, but should be in the notes to the accounts somewhere. Where you have a contract with someone to provide services, and the money isn't due yet, because the service has not yet been provided, that is a commitment.

  14. Jim Birch
    Meh

    Let's bitch, bitch, bitch!

    I'd really love to bitch about Wikipedia too except that I use it all the time and find it the most useful site on the Internet so it wouldn't make sense. It appears that a large chunk of the connected population does too.

    On the other hand, we could make a principled stand and leave the dissemination of information to Internet mega-corporations with more-or-less opaque management practices, billions in the bank, and an interest in optimising the content and style for their own financial gain. WTF.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let's bitch, bitch, bitch!

      I don't have much of a problem with Wackypedia itself, but the WMF must die, for the good of Wackypedia itself.

      Self-appointed bureaucracies taking control of open source / crowd sourced projects is not a good way to go. Firefox is another good (bad) example.

    2. John Lilburne Silver badge

      Re: Let's bitch, bitch, bitch!

      The problem with your complaint is that all of the wikipedia content is already available elsewhere. If you are in the UK you have free access to Britannica through your library membership. Plus all the Oxford reference works. Plus loads of music and art references. True they don't have 1000s of "My Little Pony" articles but I suspect that isn't what you are looking up.

      What has happened is that WP has polluted the internet, its pages dominate search engines to the exclusion of better works. The result is that you will almost always get 3rd rate information for any search query.

      1. graeme leggett

        Re: Let's bitch, bitch, bitch!

        One could argue that the Wikipedia(s) provide coverage of topics that the more established encylopaedias chose not to cover (eg the My Little Pony, Transformers etc, "youtuber"s) but then they have editorial boards that define what goes in.

        In theory on Wikipedia if enough reputable authors have written enough about a topic, then it may warrant inclusion. But there's no editorial board, just a pile of editors discussing (though often arguing) amongst themselves as to whether the coverage is sufficient. And sometimes those arguments turn into arguments among editors about each other.

        Articles balloon into great tracts rather than the pithy content you get in encylopaedias, until they become précis of the several books the editors have read. What is needed some times is a short introduction to the subject, and then a list of books to read where the detail is. Instead, you get something like the list of people who where on the Titanic ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passengers_of_the_RMS_Titanic ) which names every benighted soul that was on that fateful journey, and which is - for the most part - of no use or interest to anyone save the Titanic obsessive or a descendant.

        1. John Lilburne Silver badge

          Re: Let's bitch, bitch, bitch!

          [for the most part - of no use or interest to anyone save the Titanic obsessive or a descendant.]

          They claim 4.5 million articles but the vast number of them are of the form "X is a village in Outer Mongolia with a population of 216", "Y is a moth in the A family", or "Z is a football player in the 4th division of the Turks and Caicos Islands league". As such they contain no extra information than that which you had to start with.

    3. Trygve

      Re: Let's bitch, bitch, bitch!

      "leave the dissemination of information to Internet mega-corporations with more-or-less opaque management practices, billions in the bank, and an interest in optimising the content and style for their own financial gain"

      Sums up Mr Wales' approach nicely. Apart from currently only having millions rather than billions in the bank, a problem he is working hard to solve. Wiki management practices are more opaque than any mega-corporation.

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. John Lilburne Silver badge

      Why did Wales abandon it ...

      ... the Spanish editors forked in protest and he bottled it.

  16. Cipher
    FAIL

    Wikipedia is unreliable, most academics and professional organizations ban it use in papers. Then there is this:

    Wikipdia's worst

    1. Spleen

      80% of those were probably written by the Tumblr authors themselves. [citation needed]

    2. Yugguy

      At the school my wife works at students are taught NOT to use Wikipedia as an authoritative source and are marked down if they do so. I've already taught my 9 year old this.

      WIki is useful as a starting point for research.

  17. JDX Gold badge

    Why an annual intrusive push?

    Couldn't they just have a permanent bottom-bar, similar to those used for cookie notifications or "site feedback" - it would be noticeable but not intrusive.

  18. Amorous Cowherder

    ...banner ads suggest disaster may be imminent if people don't donate..." -

    Hardly the collapse of civilisation is it? Just means a few more students will have to actually open those papery things they buy at the start of the year, do some reading and then actually come up with their own essays!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bad press & hostility

    Seems to be a lot of hostility toward Wikipedia of late.

    I've had text books (pre-internet) with greater number of mistakes compared to this site.

    Name one private encyclopedia that covers as many subjects with as much depth as wiki?

    It has its problems. Some contributors may make mistakes, some pages are vandalized (occasionally by "academics" trying to prove a point) and some pages are written by marketing scum, but these get weeded out by an open system.

    .

    Speaking of marketing scum... Who stands to gain if Wikipedia slips off into the night?

    M$? Think they've given up on Encarta.

    Google maybe?

    .

    A begging banner is annoying, but the site has always been free and ad-free at point of use. I've always found it very useful for a quick check, mostly unbiased and easy to reference.

    1. Cipher
      Angel

      Re: Bad press & hostility

      "Who stands to gain if Wikipedia slips off into the night?"

      People looking for solid, reliable information not amateur written and agenda edited only to get to the real citations at the end of an article?

      One could garner "facts" from a WP article just before the editors cleaned up some nonsense and put that BS into a paper. The citations can be dangerous as well.

      With all the sources of information available on the web, I wonder why anyone uses WP.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Bad press & hostility

      In answer to your question: "Who stands to gain if Wikipedia slips off into the night?"

      Wikipedia badly needs competition. It isn't hard to imagine an open access, free Wikipedia that simply prohibited anonymity (the single biggest cause of grief) and funded some fact-checking. Only ideology prevents Wikipedia doing this tomorrow, even though the quality would improve enormously, and the reach (into schools, for example) would also expand.

      Nothing convinces me the world needs another monopoly.

      1. Benjol

        Re: Bad press & hostility

        Thanks for this. I admit to having donated in the past, but hadn't realised how much filthy lucre they're sitting on.

        Quite honestly, given how many people seem to be eager to part with their money, I think you should try it here.

      2. Sparkzilla

        Re: Bad press & hostility

        Hi Andy, I am the founder of Newslines, which aims to replace all of Wikipedia's biography and news-based pages (the most popular pages), by creating crowdsourced pages based on news events.

        Because we built Newslines' editing system from the ground up, we have found that many of the ideas people have about creating "the next Wikipedia" do not work in practice. For example, we have found that anonymity is one of the key points to avoid harassment, and is not an indicator of quality. Real names policies and other identifiers are used by Wikipedia editors to gain advantage. By making our system completely anonymous during the edit process, editors cannot reject posts based on the identity of the writer, a situation that happened to me when I was a Wikipedia editor.

        Another counter-intuitive point is that because we pay our writers ($1 per post) we have found that, unlike Wikipedia, which has 90% male editors, Newslines has 80% female and minority writers. In the end,. I came to the conclusion that the wiki software itself causes almost every one of Wikipedia's public problems.

        See http://newslines.org/blog/wikipedias-13-deadly-sins/

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Could be worse....

    ....could be the Church Of England asking for funds for a new church roof from the locals whilst sitting on BILLIONS of pounds in stocks and shares.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mmmm I think this article came a week late for this smug philanthropist.....

  22. Yugguy

    Wikipedia RULES

    I once edited Tim Westwood's entry to change every instance of "disk jockey" to "cock jockey", which I submit is a far more accurate description.

    It lasted TWO days before anyone noticed, or perhaps cared enough to change it.

    I still have the screenshot.

    It never gets old.

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Wikipedia RULES

      Please, I implore you, post that somewhere publicly.

    2. mhoneywell

      Re: Wikipedia RULES

      Don't fuck with The Big Dog (Westwood). He brought hiphop to the mainstream in the UK. He might talk like a prick, but I bumped into him, literally, in a Starbucks and he was charming. Respect is very due.

      1. Yugguy

        Re: Wikipedia RULES

        DO please tell me you're joking.

  23. Uncle Ron

    One Truly Shining Star

    WIkipedia is one truly bright star on the webs. I'm a fan, a supporter, a defender. It is stunning to me that envious, know-it-all critics sit out there on their terminals and poke barbs at how they raise and spend money. Nobody's perfect. But they have done so well, creating a brand new thing, that works well, not perfectly, but so well, that I say, "Shut up and sit down."

    I want WIkipedia to have a nice, fat cushion of funding. I don't want Wikipedia to ever be threatened. I don't want Wikipedia to be ad supported. Ever.

    1. Gregory Kohs

      Re: One Truly Shining Star

      You are exactly the type of donor that the Wikimedia Foundation has brainwashed with their annual spin, that your money is used to keep the site working well. They do that with 10% of the money they receive. The other 90% they use to stuff savings accounts and buy treasury bonds, pay software developers to write non-functioning code, pay rent in one of America's most expensive cities, and travel the world to expensive locations like Haifa, Hong Kong, London, and Rio.

  24. Michael Habel Silver badge

    Ahh to be living in bliss

    For I know not of these "Bright Yellow Pop Ups" of which they speak of.... I wonder if I should give some Money to those fine People at ABP, and AdAway?

  25. David Austin

    tl;dr

    Skipped straight to the comments:

    Is it worth actually reading this article, or is it the normal Hyporbole-laden El Reg WikiCoverage?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I notice they're asking US users for 3USD, and UK users for 3GBP.

    Typical cross-atlantic price disparity - and this time sales tax/VAT isn't an excuse.

  27. knarf

    Monkey Pic

    Just send them monkey pics, there are priceless according to Jimmy

  28. Jim in Hayward

    Wow! People sure like to bitch. Donate? Never! Stupid bitches think giving their cash to churches means something. You don't need stupid to give. We all just need stupid to die (republicans).

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Twitter W*nkers

    Is that screenshot of Twitter supposed to bolster the argument of the piece? Because it looks like the pathetic whining of a bunch of self-entitled tosspots to me.

  30. Alan Denman

    Corporate hi-jack?

    Well I hop not but it is happening everywhere to consumer detriment.

    Spend some of that money on tackling Wiki Wars, some article are an advertorial embarrassment.

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