Wikipedia's tin-cup approach wears thin. Timely LA Times article.
Wikipedia, the "encyclopedia anyone can edit," is stuck in a weird Internet time warp, part grass-roots labor of love, part runaway success.
A global democracy beloved by high school term paper writers and run largely by volunteers, the site is controlled for now by people who seem to view revenue with suspicion and worry that too much money -- maybe even just a little money -- would defile and possibly ruin the biggest encyclopedia in the history of the written word.
How about selling advertising space like most big-time websites do? Don't go there unless you want to start a Wikipedian riot. Some members of the foundation's board of trustees and most of the site's editors and contributing writers zealously oppose advertising. [Are you reading this, Danny?]
After a staff member in 2002 raised the possibility in the Wikipedia community, a facet of the Spanish-language branch quit and created the forever ad-free Enciclopedia Libre Universal en Español. Its founders said that advertising "implied the existence of a commercialization of the selfless work of volunteers."
As Wikimedia adds features to its pages, such as videos, costs will rise. "Without financial stability and strong planning, the foundation runs the risk of needing to take drastic steps at some point in the next couple years," said Nathan Awrich, a 26-year-old Wikipedia editor from Vermont who supports advertising.
Outsiders find it hard to see how the site can avoid selling ad space.
"They either have to charge people or run ads, or both," said Greg Sterling, an analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, which specializes in consumer behavior online.
Wales said that the free culture movement, as it's called, has to think creatively if it wants to keep spreading information to computers around the world.
"There are some real problems with a nonprofit structure," he said. "One of the basic problems is funding: We can get enough money to survive but don't really have the funding to push forward or innovate."