Wikimedia Foundation

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The Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit charitable organization headquartered in San Francisco, California, United States, and organized under the laws of the state of Florida, where it was initially based. It operates several online collaborative wiki projects including Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikibooks (including Wikijunior), Wikisource, Wikimedia Commons, Wikispecies, Wikinews, Wikiversity, Wikimedia Incubator and Meta-Wiki. Its flagship project, the English-language Wikipedia, ranks among the top ten most-visited websites worldwide.[1]

The creation of the foundation was officially announced on June 20, 2003 by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales,[2] who had been operating Wikipedia under the aegis of his company Bomis.[3]



The Wikimedia Foundation falls under section 501(c)(3) of the US Internal Revenue Code as a public charity. Its National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) code is B60 (Adult, Continuing Education).[4][5] The foundation's by-laws declare a statement of purpose of collecting and developing educational content and to disseminate it effectively and globally.[6]

The Wikimedia Foundation's stated goal is to develop and maintain open content, wiki-based projects and to provide the full contents of those projects to the public free of charge.[7] This is possible thanks to its Terms of Use (updated and approved on June 2009, to adopt CC-BY-SA license).

History and growth

File:Jimmy Wales Fundraiser Appeal edit.jpg
Jimmy Wales, the Founder of the Wikimedia Foundation, in December 2008
File:New Wikimedia Foundation Office 14.jpg
Wikimedia Foundation's San Francisco headquarters

The Wikimedia Foundation was created from Wikipedia and Nupedia on June 20, 2003.[8] It applied to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to trademark Wikipedia on September 17, 2004. The mark was granted registration status on January 10, 2006. Trademark protection was accorded by Japan on December 16, 2004, and in the European Union on January 20, 2005. Technically a service mark, the scope of the mark is for: "Provision of information in the field of general encyclopedic knowledge via the Internet."[citation needed] There are plans to license the use of the Wikipedia trademark for some products, such as books or DVDs.[9]

The name "Wikimedia" was coined by American author Sheldon Rampton in a post to the English mailing list in March 2003.[10]

With the foundation's announcement, Wales also transferred ownership of all Wikipedia, Wiktionary and Nupedia domain names to Wikimedia along with the copyrights for all materials related to these projects that were created by Bomis employees or Wales himself. The computer equipment used to run all the Wikimedia projects was also donated by Wales to the foundation, which also acquired the domain names "" and "".

In April 2005, the US Internal Revenue Service approved (by letter) the foundation as an educational foundation in the category "Adult, Continuing Education", meaning all contributions to the Wikimedia Foundation are tax deductible for U.S. federal income tax purposes.

On December 11, 2006, the Wikimedia Foundation board noted that the corporation could not become the membership organization initially planned but never implemented due to an inability to meet the registration requirements of Florida Statute. Accordingly, the bylaws were amended to remove all reference to membership rights and activities. The decision to change the bylaws was passed by the board unanimously.

On September 25, 2007, the Wikimedia Foundation board gave notice that the operations would be moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. Major considerations cited for choosing San Francisco were proximity to like-minded organizations and potential partners as well as cheaper and more convenient international travel than is available from St. Petersburg.[11][12][13]

Board of Trustees

  • In January 2004, Jimmy Wales appointed his business partners Tim Shell and Michael E. Davis to the board of the Wikimedia Foundation. In June 2004, an election was held for two user representative board members. Following one month of campaigning and two weeks of online voting, Angela Beesley and Florence Nibart-Devouard were elected to join the board. In late 2004, Wales and Beesley launched a startup company, Wikia, affiliated with neither Wikimedia nor Bomis, except for their presence as principals/trustees. In July 2005, Beesley and Nibart-Devouard were re-elected to the board.
  • On July 1, 2006, Beesley resigned from the board effective upon election of her successor, expressing concern about "certain events and tendencies that have arisen within the organization since the start of this year," but stating her intent to continue to participate in the Wikimedia projects, and in the formation of an Australian chapter. A special election was held in September to finish Beesley's term, ending with the mid-2007 election. The election was won by Erik Möller.
  • In October 2006, Nibart-Devouard replaced Wales as chair of the Foundation. On December 8, 2006, the board expanded to seven people with the appointments of Kat Walsh and Oscar van Dillen. Effective December 15, 2006, Jan-Bart de Vreede was appointed to replace Shell.
  • In the June 2007 election, Möller and Walsh were reelected; van Dillen, who ran for re-election, was narrowly edged by Frieda Brioschi.
  • Davis left the board in November 2007. Nibart-Devouard's elected term expires in June 2008. The appointed terms for Wales and de Vreede expired in December 2008. Brioschi's and Walsh's elected terms expired in June 2009.
  • In December 2007, Möller resigned from the Board of Trustees, and was hired as the foundation's deputy director by the executive director.
  • In February 2008, Florence Devouard announced the addition of two new board members: Michael Snow, an American lawyer and chair of the Communication Committee; and Domas Mituzas, a Lithuanian computer software engineer, MySQL employee, and longtime member of the core tech team.[14]
  • In April 2008, the board announced a restructuring of its membership, increasing the number of board positions to 10 overall, as follows:
    • Three community-elected seats
    • Two seats to be selected by the chapters
    • One board-appointed 'community founder' seat, to be occupied by Jimmy Wales
    • Four board-appointed 'specific expertise' seats[15]
  • In the June 2008 board election, Ting Chen was elected for a one-year term, then in September Frieda Brioschi resigned to be elected at the board of Wikimedia Italia.
  • In August 2009 board election, Ting Chen (reelected), Kat Walsh and Samuel Klein are elected. Their positions will be effective until July 2011

Volunteer committees and positions

File:Wiki feel stupid v2.ogv
In April 2009, Wikimedia Foundation conducted Wikipedia usability study questioning users about the editing mechanism[16]

In 2004, the foundation appointed Tim Starling as developer liaison to help improve the MediaWiki software, Daniel Mayer as chief financial officer (finance, budgeting and coordination of fund drives), and Erik Möller as content partnership coordinator.

In May 2005, the foundation announced the appointment of seven people to official positions:[17]

  • Brion Vibber as chief technical officer (Vibber was also an employee of the Foundation, with other duties)
  • Domas Mituzas as hardware officer
  • Jens Frank as developer liaison
  • Möller as chief research officer
  • Danny Wool as grants coordinator
  • Elisabeth Bauer as press officer
  • Jean-Baptiste Soufron as lead legal coordinator

Möller resigned in August 2005, due to differences with the board, and was replaced by James Forrester. In February 2007, Forrester resigned, and the board appointed Gregory Maxwell to the position, renamed "chief research coordinator".[18]

In January 2006, the foundation created several committees, including the Communication Committee, in an attempt to further organize activities essentially handled by volunteers at that time.[19] Starling resigned that month to spend more time on his PhD program.


File:Wikimedia Foundation organization chart.svg
Organization chart as of January 2008[20]

The functions of the Wikimedia Foundation were, for the first few years, executed almost entirely by volunteers. In 2005, the foundation had only two employees, Danny Wool, a coordinator, and Brion Vibber, a software manager. Though the number of employees has grown, the foundation's staff is still very small, and the bulk of foundation work continues to be done by volunteers.

As of October 4, 2006, the Wikimedia Foundation had five paid employees:[21] two programmers, an administrative assistant, a coordinator handling fundraising and grants, and an interim executive director,[22] Brad Patrick, previously the foundation's general counsel. Patrick ceased his activity as interim director in January 2007, and then resigned from his position as legal counsel, effective April 1, 2007. He was replaced by Mike Godwin as general counsel and legal coordinator in July 2007.[23] Three further technical contractors were also appointed in December 2006: part-time hardware manager Kyle Anderson in Tampa, full-time MediaWiki software developer Tim Starling, and part-time networking coordinator Mark Bergsma.

In January 2007, Carolyn Doran was named chief operating officer and Sandy Ordonez came on board as head of communications.[24] Doran had begun working as a part-time bookkeeper in 2006 after being sent by a temporary agency. Doran later left the foundation in July 2007, and Sue Gardner was hired as consultant and special advisor (later CEO). Some months after Doran's departure, it was determined[25] that she was a convicted felon, with a DUI arrest during her tenure at the foundation and a substantial criminal history, including shooting her boyfriend and complicity in credit card forgery.[26] Her departure from the organization was cited as one of the reasons the foundation took about seven months to release its fiscal 2007 financial audit.[27]

Danny Wool, officially the grant coordinator but also largely involved in fundraising and business development, resigned in March 2007. In February 2007, the foundation added a new position, chapters coordinator, and hired Delphine Ménard,[28] who had been occupying the position as a volunteer since August 2005. Cary Bass was hired in March 2007 in the position of volunteer coordinator. In May 2007, Vishal Patel was hired to assist in business development.[29] Oleta McHenry was brought in as accountant in May, 2007, through a temporary placement agency and made the official fulltime accountant in August, 2007. In January 2008, the foundation appointed three new staff: Veronique Kessler as the new chief financial and operating officer, Kul Wadhwa to replace Vishal Patel as head of business development, and Jay Walsh as head of communications.

In June 2008, the foundation announced two staff additions in fundraising: Rebecca Handler as major gifts officer and Rand Montoya as head of community giving.[30] Soon afterward, Sara Crouse was hired as head of partnerships and foundation relations.[31] In fall 2008, the foundation hired three software developers: Tomasz Finc, Ariel Glenn, and Trevor Parscal.[32]

A list of Wikimedia Foundation staff can be found at the Wikimedia Foundation's staff page.

Board members

Board of Trustees

File:Wikimedia Foundation Board Members Wikimania 2009.jpg
Board members at Wikimania 2009 in Buenos Aires

These are the members of the Board of Trustees and the expiry of their terms, as of October 2009:[33]

  • Michael Snow, chair (July 2010)
  • Jan-Bart de Vreede, vice-chair (December 2009)
  • Kat Walsh, executive secretary (July 2011)
  • Stuart West, treasurer (December 2009)
  • Jimmy Wales, chairman emeritus (December 2009)
  • Arne Klempert (July 2010)
  • Ting Chen (July 2011)
  • Samuel Klein (July 2011)
  • Matt Halprin (December 2009)

Advisory Board

The Advisory Board is an international network of experts who have agreed to give the foundation meaningful help on a regular basis in many different areas, including law, organizational development, technology, policy, and outreach.[34] As of November 2009, the members are:

Projects, initiatives and chapters


File:Wikimedia logo family complete.svg
The Wikimedia projects logo family

In addition to the multilingual general encyclopedia Wikipedia, the foundation manages a multi-language dictionary and thesaurus named Wiktionary, an encyclopedia of quotations named Wikiquote, a repository of source texts in any language named Wikisource, and a collection of e-book texts for students (such as textbooks and annotated public domain books) named Wikibooks. Wikijunior is a subproject of Wikibooks that specializes in books for children. The launch dates shown below are when official domains were established for the projects and/or beta versions were launched; preliminary test versions at other domains are not considered.

Name URL Launching date Description
Wikipedia 2001-01-15 Encyclopedia containing more than 13 million articles in 266 languages.
Meta-Wiki 2001-11-09 Wiki devoted to the coordination of the Wikimedia projects.
Wiktionary 2002-12-12 Dictionary cataloging meanings, synonyms, etymologies and translations.
Wikibooks 2003-07-10 Collection of free educational textbooks and learning materials.
Wikiquote 2003-07-10 Collection of quotations structured in numerous ways.
Wikisource 2003-11-24 Project to provide and translate free source documents, such as public domain texts.
Wikimedia Commons 2004-09-07 Repository of images, sounds, videos and general media, containing over 5,000,000 files.
Wikimedia Incubator 2006-06-02 Used to test possible new languages for existing projects.
Wikispecies 2004-09-13 Directory of species data on animalia, plantae, fungi, bacteria, archaea, protista and all other forms of life.
Wikinews 2004-12-03 News source containing original reporting by citizen journalists from many countries.
Wikiversity 2006-08-15 Educational and research materials and activities.
Wikimedia Outreach 2009-10 Promotion of Wikimedia projects
Wikimedia Strategic planning summer 2009 Strategy planning work for all Wikimedia projects
Wikipedia Usability Initiative 2008 Usability team wiki
Wikimania Wikimania conference websites
Wikipedia Test Wiki Test wiki that runs a recent version of MediaWiki
Wikimedia Surveys Survey aggregation website


Wikimedia organizes each year Wikimania, a conference for users of the Wikimedia Foundation projects. It was first organized in Frankfurt (Germany), 2005.

Local chapters

File:Wikimedia chapters existing.svg
World map showing countries that have local chapters in blue.

Wikimedia projects have an international scope. To continue this success on an organizational level, Wikimedia is building an international network of associated organizations.

Local chapters are self-dependent organizations that share the goals of the Wikimedia Foundation and support them within a specified geographical region. They support the foundation, the Wikimedia community and Wikimedia projects in different ways — by collecting donations, organizing local events and projects and spreading the word of Wikimedia, free content and Wiki culture. They also provide the community and potential partners with a point of contact capable of fulfilling specific local needs.

Local chapters are self-dependent associations with no legal control of nor responsibility for the websites of the Wikimedia Foundation and vice versa.

Area Title URL Since
File:Flag of Argentina.svg Argentina Wikimedia Argentina 02007-09-01 September 1, 2007
File:Flag of Australia.svg Australia Wikimedia Australia 02008-03-01 March 1, 2008
File:Flag of Austria.svg Austria Wikimedia Österreich 02008-02-26 February 26, 2008
File:Flag of the Czech Republic.svg Czech Republic Wikimedia Česká republika 02008-03-06 March 6, 2008
File:Flag of Denmark.svg Denmark Wikimedia Danmark 02009-07-03 July 3, 2009
File:Flag of France.svg France Wikimédia France 02004-10-23 October 23, 2004
File:Flag of Germany.svg Germany Wikimedia Deutschland 02004-06-13 June 13, 2004
File:Flag of Hong Kong.svg Hong Kong 香港維基媒體協會 02008-03-01 March 1, 2008
File:Flag of Hungary.svg Hungary Wikimédia Magyarország 02008-09-27 September 27, 2008
File:Flag of Indonesia.svg Indonesia Wikimedia Indonesia 02008-10-07 October 7, 2008
File:Flag of Israel.svg Israel Wikimedia Israel 02007-06-26 June 26, 2007
File:Flag of Italy.svg Italy Wikimedia Italia 02005-06-17 June 17, 2005
File:Flag of Macedonia.svg Macedonia Wikimedia Macedonia 02009-09-21 September 21, 2009
File:Flag of the Netherlands.svg Netherlands Wikimedia Nederland 02006-03-27 March 27, 2006
File:Flag of Norway.svg Norway Wikimedia Norge 02007-06-23 June 23, 2007
File:Flag of Poland.svg Poland Wikimedia Polska 02005-11-18 November 18, 2005
File:Flag of Portugal.svg Portugal Wikimedia Portugal 02009-07-03 July 3, 2009
File:Flag of Russia.svg Russia Викимедиа РУ 02008-05-24 May 24, 2008
File:Flag of Serbia.svg Serbia Wikimedia Србије 02005-12-03 December 3, 2005
File:Flag of Sweden.svg Sweden Wikimedia Sverige 02007-12-11 December 11, 2007
File:Flag of Switzerland.svg Switzerland Wikimedia CH 02006-05-14 May 14, 2006
File:Flag of the Republic of China.svg Republic of China 中華民國維基媒體協會 02007-07-04 July 4, 2007
File:Flag of Ukraine.svg Ukraine Вікімедіа Україна 02009-07-03 July 3, 2009
File:Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom Wikimedia UK 02009-01-12 January 12, 2009
Template:Country data New York City Wikimedia New York City 02009-01-12 January 12, 2009


Many disputes have resulted in litigation[1][2][3][4] while others have not.[5] Attorney Matt Zimmerman stated "Without strong liability protection, it would be difficult for Wikipedia to continue to provide a platform for user-created encyclopedia content."[6]


The Wikimedia Foundation relies on public contributions and grants to fund its mission.[35] It is exempt from federal income tax[35][36] and from state income tax.[35][37] It is not a private foundation, and contributions to it qualify as tax-deductible charitable contributions.[35] The continued technical and economic growth of each of the Wikimedia projects is dependent mostly on donations but the Wikimedia Foundation also increases its revenue by alternative means of funding such as grants, sponsorship, services (datafeed)[citation needed] and brand merchandising.

At the beginning of 2006, the foundation's net assets were $270,000. During the year, the organization received support and revenue totaling $1,510,000, with concurrent expenses of $790,000. Net assets increased by $720,000 to a total of over one million dollars.[35] In 2007, the foundation continued to expand, ending the year with net assets of $1,700,000.[38] Both income and expenses nearly doubled in 2007.[38]


In March 2008 the foundation announced its largest donation to date: a three-year, $3 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.[39] In 2009, the foundation received three grants - the first grant was a $890,000 Stanton Foundation grant and aimed to help study and simplify user interface for first-time authors of Wikipedia.[40] The second was a $300,000 Ford Foundation Grant for Wikimedia Commons that aimed to improve the interfaces and workflows for multimedia uploading on Wikimedia websites.[41] In August 2009, the foundation received a $500,000 grant from Hewlett Foundation.[42] In August 2009, the Omidyar Network issued a potential $2 million in "grant" funding to Wikimedia.[43]


  1. "Top 500". Alexa. Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  2. Neate, Rupert (2008-10-07). "Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales goes bananas". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-10-25. "The encyclopedia's huge fan base became such a drain on Bomis's resources that Mr Wales, and co-founder Larry Sanger, thought of a radical new funding model – charity." 
  3. Wales, Jimmy (2003-06-20). "Wikipedia English mailing list message". 
  4. "NTEE Classification System". Retrieved 2008-01-28. 
  5. "NCCS definition for Adult Education". Retrieved 2008-01-28. 
  6. Jd. "Wikimedia Foundation bylaws". Wikimedia Foundation. Archived from the original on 2007-04-20. Retrieved 2008-01-28. 
  7. Devouard, Florence. "Mission statement". Wikimedia Foundation. Archived from the original on 2007-09-01. Retrieved 2008-01-28. 
  8. Jimmy Wales: "Announcing Wikimedia Foundation", June 20, 2003, <>
  9. Nair, Vipin (December 5, 2005). "Growing on volunteer power". Business Line. Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  10. Rampton, Sheldon (2003-03-16). "Wikipedia English mailing list message". 
  11. Carlos Moncada (2007-09-25). "Wikimedia Foundation Moving To Another Bay Area". The Tampa Tribune. 
  12. Richard Mullins (2007-09-26). "Online Encyclopedia To Leave St. Petersburg For San Francisco". The Tampa Tribune. 
  13. Kim, Ryan (2007-10-10). "Wikipedia team plans move to San Francisco". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  14. Devouard, Florence (2008-02-13). "[Foundation-l] [Announcement] Welcome to our two new board members". Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  15. Walsh, Jay. "Board of Trustees Restructure Announcement". Wikimedia Foundation. Archived from the original on 2008-04-27. Retrieved 2008-04-26. 
  16. Wikimedia Foundation
  17. Snow, Michael (2005-05-30). "Wikimedia names seven to official positions". The Wikipedia Signpost. Retrieved 2008-03-10. 
  18. Möller, Erik. "Resolution:Chief Research Coordinator". Wikimedia Foundation. Archived from the original on 2007-03-01. Retrieved 2007-03-01. 
  19. Devouard, Florence. "Resolutions". Wikimedia Foundation. Archived from the original on 2008-01-21. Retrieved 2008-02-04. 
  20. January 2008 Wikimedia Organization employee descriptions
  21. Jimmy Wales. (2006-10-04) (internet video). Charlie Rose (46:22). [TV-Series]. Google Video: Charlie Rose. Retrieved 2006-12-08. 
  22. Korg. "Wikimedia Foundation Announces Interim Executive Director". Wikimedia Foundation. Archived from the original on 2006-06-12. Retrieved 2006-06-12. 
  23. Mailing list post by the Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees announcing the appointment.
  24. Danny. "Current staff". Wikimedia Foundation. Archived from the original on 2007-02-01. Retrieved 2007-02-01. 
  25. Metz, Cade (2007-12-13). "Wikipedia COO was convicted felon". Retrieved 2007-12-27. 
  26. Bergstein, Brian (2007-12-21). "Felon Became COO of Wikipedia Foundation". Retrieved 2007-12-27. 
  27. Ral315 (2007-11-19). "Signpost interview: Florence Devouard". The Wikipedia Signpost. Retrieved 2008-02-19. 
  28. "Resolution:Chapters coordinator". 
  29. Bass, Cary. "Current staff". Wikimedia Foundation. Archived from the original on 2007-05-18. Retrieved 2007-05-18. 
  30. Kessler, Veronique (2008-06-26). "Wikimedia Foundation announces new staff appointments". Wikimedia Blog. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2008-06-28. 
  31. Kessler, Veronique (2008-07-12). "Welcome Sara Crouse to the WMF staff". Wikimedia Blog. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  32. "Staff". Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2008-11-29. 
  33. Walsh, Jay. "Board of Trustees". Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  34. "Advisory Board". Wikimedia Foundation. Archived from the original on 2009-09-07. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 35.3 35.4 "Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. - Financial Statements — June 30, 2006, 2005, and 2004" (PDF). Wikimedia Foundation. 2006-12-06. Retrieved 2006-12-06. 
  36. See also Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of the Florida Statutes
  37. See also Chapter 220.13 of the Florida Statutes
  38. 38.0 38.1 Finance report 2007
  39. "Sloan Foundation to Give Wikipedia $3M". Associated Press. 
  43. Press release, Omidyar Network Commits $2 Million Grant to Wikimedia Foundation, August 25, 2009.

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