Wikimedia Foundation executive director Sue Gardner will step down in six months, she announced in a blog post Wednesday.
Gardner took over the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation (which oversees Wikipedia) in 2007 and has helped the organization grow substantially. She used the past several years to make Wikipedia more sustainable and develop partnerships with librarians and scholars to improve the accuracy of data in the wide-ranging online encyclopedia.
She writes that she can leave now because the foundation is in a much stronger place than it is when she joined:
The movement and the Wikimedia Foundation are in a strong place now. When I joined, the Foundation was tiny and not yet able to reliably support the projects. Today we’re healthy, thriving, and a competent partner to the global network of Wikimedia volunteers. If that wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t feel okay to leave, and in that sense, my leaving is very much a vote of confidence in our Board and executive team and staff. I know they will ably steer the Foundation through the years ahead, and I’m confident the Board will appoint a strong successor to me.
Gardner also feels she needs to step down so she can help other organizations and causes related to promoting a free and open Internet. She writes:
I feel that although we’re in good shape, with a promising future, the same is not true for the internet itself. … Increasingly, I’m finding myself uncomfortable about how the internet’s developing, who’s influencing its development, and who is not. Last year we at Wikimedia raised an alarm about SOPA/PIPA, and now CISPA is back. Wikipedia has experienced censorship at the hands of industry groups and governments, and we are — increasingly, I think — seeing important decisions made by unaccountable, non-transparent corporate players, a shift from the open web to mobile walled gardens, and a shift from the production-based internet to one that’s consumption-based. There are many organizations and individuals advocating for the public interest online — what’s good for ordinary people — but other interests are more numerous and powerful than they are. I want that to change. And that’s what I want to do next.
Sue Gardner photo via Victoria Will for the Wikimedia Foundation