Wiki-nomics: Running Wiki is getting a lot more expensive

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In Wiki we trust?

For the most part, however, the mechanics of the site might actually galvanize it against bias: popular articles are edited and reviewed countless times by Wiki’s volunteers, admins, and bots to improve reliability. Media experts have even argued that a highly edited article on Wikipedia may actually be among the most reliable sources of information — compared with traditional academic articles, for example, which are often only peer-reviewed by a handful of people. Interestingly, in a time of political polarization, both American and British people report trusting Wikipedia at least as much as mainstream media outlets.

Wiki’s collectivism inspires some confidence, but the recent AI boom could threaten its open-access model. Many of the groundbreaking AI models released this year include Wikipedia citations in their training data. If Wiki's content ends up regurgitated by chatbots owned by big tech, the incentives for Wikipedia’s contribution system — mostly goodwill and personal interest — could collapse.


Wikipedia could be a billion-dollar business almost overnight were it to offer advertising. But the decision to keep the site not-for-profit has arguably been its masterstroke, freeing the site from monetary conflicts... though keeping everything running is increasingly costly.

In 2004, the WMF was racking up just $23,463 in annual expenses. Last year operating expenses reached nearly $146 million, ~60% of which was spent on salaries and wages, while various expenses — such as putting on conferences, handing out awards and grants to the growing Wiki-community, and hosting core websites — also cost millions each.

As WMF operates on “whatever monies it receives from its annual fund drives”, this rise in spending has been matched with donations: last year saw cash contributions reach $160 million. Some will remember the donation-appeal banner that used to head Wikipedia articles a few years back — controversial, even at the time, with Wikipedians arguing that the doomsday depiction of Wiki’s finances was misleading.

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Wiki-nomics: Running Wiki is getting a lot more expensive
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