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The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization behind Wikipedia, the world’s largest free online encyclopedia, announced that it has passed its fundraising goal of $6 million for 2008. As of today, $6.2 million has been raised from over 125,000 donors.

A personal appeal from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, posted in December on the web sites of Wikipedia and The Wikimedia Foundation, raked in $2 million from over 50,000 contributors in just eight days. The financial support will allow the foundation to cover its operating costs for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2009.

In his thank you letter, Wales specifies that donations will go toward the foundation’s day-to-day operations, including servers and bandwith and improvements to open source software, as well as the salaries of its small staff of 23 people. Funds will also go towards supporting Wikipedia’s international network of volunteers and outreach events like Wikipedia Academies, in-person workshops that help attendees learn more about how to use and edit Wikpedia. I’m especially excited about Wikimedia producing online video tutorials to help those who can’t attend Wikipedia Academies.

Wikipedia and its sister projects have been supported almost exclusively by user donations and not advertising, ReadWriteWeb notes. Wikipedia, founded in 2001, has emerged as the fourth most popular website globally and could definitely make millions through advertising. However, the organization has always chosen not to in part because it wants readers and writers to run Wikipedia together as a community.

If advertisements were plastered all over the site, people would likely feel the need not to donate, and Wikipedia would feel too corporate, like MySpace or YouTube — an identity at odds with its free culture ethos. Wales has blogged about his belief that advertising is not right for Wikpedia, preferring that donations come directly from supporters who have a stake in the community.

I mean, even Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) of the TV show The Office loves Wikipedia, and rightly so:


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