Could Wikipedia get too big to fail?

According to this personal appeal from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, the website is run on $10 million a year. He also says it is the fifth-most-viewed website in the world.

Could there be a point where Wikipedia could get too big to fail and would be granted a major influx of funds from some federal government? Has that point passed already? We could say that if Wikipedia failed, something else would take its place. But Wikipedia is already so implanted to our lexicon and view of the world… it seems like it would be hard to give it up.

Like all other popular things on the Internet, Wikipedia will eventually be replaced by something else, and it won’t affect the real world at all.

Everything is impermanent, but I think Wikipedia will be around for a very very long time. Even if for some reason the name of the site itself doesn’t continue, the concept of a free public domain encylopedia will endure until the human race itself dies out.

Won’t affect the ‘real world’ huh?

No. Unlike the banks and auto industry, Wikipedia is not a major sector of the U.S. economy.

True, but there was a time before the Wikipedia not so long ago, so it’s not like it’s essential to mankind’s survival.
Besides, while a single repository for general information is handy, that information already exists all over the 'net. If Wikipedia didn’t exist, we’d just Google foreign concepts instead of Wiki-ing them - and we’d pretty much end up on the same source pages, too.

Wikipedia operates on such a small amount of money in the grand scheme of things that there is no doubt that the funding would arise if Wikipedia were to seriously take steps to shut down operations. At the government level, it’s peanuts. Hell, I’d support the government establishing a Wikipedia Trust for 100 million, which would allow a 10 million per year annuity for Wikipedia operations. It would have to be completely hands-off, with the government exerting no influence over it whatsoever.

On the other hand, someone like Microsoft or Apple or Google or Sun could fund it for the PR benefit alone. 10 million a year is nothing. Wikipedia’s value to the public exceeds that amount by a couple orders of magnitude. It will survive.

It may eventually sell and become commercialized.

That’s what happened to the cardiff movie database 10 years ago. It started as a project in rec.arts.movies on usenet. All the information was submitted by fans.

One day, we were told not to call it the Cardiff move database anymore. It’s now imdb the internet movie database. They shill movies for Amazon now.

I was involved in rec.arts.movies in the early 90’s and had a lot of fun.

some old history here.

Wikipedia is already a commercial endeavor; it’s free advertising for the Wikia pay service. Jimbo has convinced people to provide free labor and donate the overhead costs of Wikipedia, and has become a millionaire from the pay section of the Wiki enterprise. It’s amazing what spurious appeals to “educating the world” (about anime, homeopathy, and Family Guy, if the large proportion of what Wikipedia editors are concerned about is any indication) can convince the gullible to do.

Not very effective advertising, considering that it it is quite possible to be a heavy Wikipedia user, and an editor, and never hear about Wikia (I had to look it up just now). Also, apparently Wikia is free to users. It does seek to make money by placing advertising on the wikis people set up there, but I can’t imagine that this is a goldmine in this economy.

I am pretty sure Wales made his millions before starting Wikipedia. (Of course he made them in much the same way, by repackaging free, volunteer supplied content from the ODP with advertising. But that was back in the net boom days when most people knew no better, and venture capitalists were handing out money like it was going out of style.)

And, sadly for those of us who weren’t working then, it has :frowning:


A good friend of mine was one of the founders who sold out to Amazon. It allowed him to quit his real job and move to Hollywood, pretty much his dream job. Ah, the boom days of the internet…

All of Wikipedia’s content is copied onto several other sites like Those sites presumably wouldn’t go away even if Wikipedia did, and something else could easily take its place. Why would this be such a disaster?

no, Jimbo Wales’ appeals are BS. All the texts are released under GFDL, and even if he pulls the plug over not being given enough money to spread the love to poor, downtrodden and fellow globalist thinkers, other people can host exactly same software with the same data on a similar set of servers. The “other people” could range from Google to a millionaire desiring to pull of a publicity stunt.

There are already editable forks of Wikipedia in existence, but for now Wikipedia editors prefer to stay at But if Wikimedia Foundation goes under, people will go edit the same encyclopedia somewhere else.

I don’t see why Jimmy Wales being a successful businessman dismisses the value of wikipedia.

This, and more importantly: all of the content of wikipedia is freely usuable to anyone who wants to - free of charge, but with a few limitations. Which is kind of the point. It doesn’t matter if wikipedia the website goes under. All the information on it will be available in perpetuity, for (practically) free. Yes there are serious marginal costs, but compared to the number of users, those are almost zero, and they could be reduced a lot more too.

Right, wikipedia could be shared on a distributed social network of people who want to dedicate server space to it. Could very easily be done without a central repository.

What most people don’t realize is Wikipedia use a “WIKI” as a content management program.

There are a lot of other Wikis out there. MediaWiki used by Wikipedia, is good software, but not exactly user friendly to set up. DocuWiki for instance is one that is much easier to set up and run with.

Anyone can download the software for MediaWiki and set up a site with it. If you’re willing to play with it for awhile. Wikia is just a site to allow you to get the MediaWiki format without the trouble and bother of tyring to figure out the software.

The thing that will kill it is if it’s sold off.

For instance one of my favourite sites was “JumpTheShark.Com” that is just a shell now.

Wikipedia is a good start to research but if a coporation bought it, they’d kill it with advertising or else they’d put their own slant on things and kill it off that way.


I’m quite certain that if Wikipedia becomes unsustainable, Google will pick it up. Google has always been more than eager to fund knowledge accumulation projects even if they don’t have an obvious profit motive.