On 12/31/05, Delirium <delirium(a)hackish.org> wrote:
Steve Bennett wrote:
case, Jimbo already explicitly promised that there
will never be
ads on Wikipedia as long as he has a say in it, so I don't
see why this
is an issue.
Has he? I thought it was just "There won't be ads as long as the
community doesn't want them". I'd like to read more of the history of
this topic, if anyone has a link.
I'm having trouble finding the original mailing list post, but there was
a pretty explicit post to that effect. I was able to find a 2002 letter
by Mav that paraphrases Jimbo as having said that: "Jimbo has also
promised that there will never be ads on Wikipedia. I will personally
advocate that this is written in the preamble for the non-profit's
constitution or in some other way to make it permanent."
He's claimed that his statement was only that any decision regarding
advertising on Wikipedia would come from the community, not from him
(and looking at the history of posts this seems to be true). See this
This is _not_ to say that we will go down any path towards advertising
on the site. I have always said, and continue to say, that decision
will come from the community, not from me.
Just earlier this year he said on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Bomis
This is very POV. The Wikipedia community has never "ruled out"
advertising, and this article makes it seem like the reason I went the
non profit route and no-advertising is in response to resistance from
the community. This is not accurate. I have consistently been opposed
to advertising on Wikipedia, although in the early days I thought
advertising was going to eventually be necessary. Now I think
advertising will never be necessary, but I wonder if someday we (the
community) might decide that we could do so much good in the world
with a small amount of advertising that we might choose to accept it.
--Jimbo Wales 19:04, 14 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Here's a quote from those "early days"
Note: This is a preliminary essay, intended to give you food for
thought. Comments are welcome, but at this time, please make your
comments to me privately, or if you must be public about it, do it on
the wikipedia-l mailing list. Everything discussed here is so
preliminary at this point that public debate isn't really warranted. I
seek feedback here primarily to refine my own thinking about the
Someday, there will be advertising on Wikipedia. Either that, or we
will have to find some other way to raise money, but I can't think of
This is not coming soon. As of today, November 9, 2001, I would say
that this is at least 6 months to (more likely) 1 year away. Why then,
and not now? Because despite encouraging growth in traffic, the amount
of money that could be made from having sponsorship of Wikipedia is
not enough to worry about.
I imagine that there will be some resistance to advertising from
adamant anti-capitalists, and from those who think that any
association with money is necessarily corrupting. I can't really help
that, and I can only state for the record that I think such people are
seriously mistaken in many aspects of their world view.
But there may be other resistance to advertising from people with
legitimate concerns! And I hope to address those concerns now, long
before this becomes an "instant issue".
First, I know from long experience at Bomis (which currently has more
than 100 million monthly pageviews throughout our entire network,
which makes us a big site, but not exactly Yahoo!), that advertisers
don't ever attempt to dictate content. So it strikes me as extremely
unlikely that any advertiser will ever care what Wikipedia's content
is. Certainly, I have never seen it at Bomis.
Second, despite the fact that such a thing would be extremely
unlikely, if an advertiser ever did ask for changes to the content to
flatter them, I would simply respond: go to hell. The independence of
the community is essential to the longterm success of this project.
Third, advertising should be done in a tasteful way. To me this means
at least these things, and a lot more besides: (a) no popup ads, (b)
advertising clearly marked as such, so that visitors do not mistake it
for content, (c) keyword-based advertising to whatever extent
possible, so that the user is presented with _relevant_ advertising,
(d) text-link based advertising preferable to banners or other
high-bandwidth advertising, to preserve the beautiful simplicity of
At the top of that page, some time before September 2002, a note was added:
There are currently no plans for Advertising on Wikipedia. Instead, I
had to let Larry go as an employee. This reduced my costs to maintain
wikipedia to a level that I can carry for a long long time to come. To
achieve my long term goals for wikipedia (including distribution to
everyone on the planet!), funds will likely be required. We'll figure
that out in the future, but donations to the nonprofit organization is
my preference. Jimbo Wales
FWIW, I can't find any evidence that any promise was ever made.
Here's a mailing list post from March 2002
With the resignation of Larry, there is a much less pressing need for
funds. Therefore, all plans to put advertising of any kind on the
wikipedia is called off for now.
In 2004, in a Slashdot interview
The question of advertising is discussed sometimes, but not really in
the context of "will we need to accept ads to survive". The answer to
that is clearly "no".
The discussion about advertising is really more a question that asks:
with this kind of traffic, and the kind of growth we are seeing, how
much good could we do as a charitable institution if we decided to
accept advertising. It would be very lucrative for the Wikimedia
Foundation if the community decided to do it, because our cost
structure is extremely extremely low compared to any traditional
That money could be used to fund books and media centers in the
developing world. Some of it could be used to purchase additional
hardware, some could be used to support the development of free
software that we use in our mission. The question that we may have to
ask ourselves, from the comfort of our relatively wealthy
Internet-connected world, is whether our discomfort and distaste for
advertising intruding on the purity of Wikipedia is more important
than that mission.
But it's more complex than that, even, because in large part, our
success so far is due to the purity of what we're doing. We might find
that accepting ad money would cut us off from possible grant money.
It's a complex question.
But it is not a question that has to be answered for our continuing
survival. We can keep going as we are now, with your help of course.