Wikipedia to stay free due to reader donations

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 January, 2009, 12:00am

Users of Wikipedia have seen off a threat that the website would be forced to carry advertisements or charge for access, after one of the most successful online fund-raising campaigns ever.

The free online encyclopaedia was struggling to raise US$6 million to cover its running costs for this year and launched a campaign seeking donations on November 3.

Money was coming in at the rate of about US$30,000 a day but the drive appeared unlikely to reach its goal, which was US$4.5 million more than the US$1.5 million the site raised to cover costs last year. So Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, took the unusual step of publishing a personal appeal for donations.

In his letter, which was posted online on December 23, Mr Wales wrote: 'Wikipedia is different. It's the largest encyclopaedia in history, written by volunteers. Like a national park or a school, we don't believe advertising should have a place in Wikipedia. ... Your donation will help keep Wikipedia free for the whole world.'

And his tactic worked. In the following 24 hours the site received 8,186 donations, compared to just 800 the previous day. Before his appeal the site, which attracts about 254 million visitors a month, was receiving about US$30,000 a day, but that rose to more than US$215,000 after the letter was published.

And, on January 1, the total crept past the crucial US$6 million mark.