[Foundation-l] board candidacies

Michael R. Irwin michael_irwin at verizon.net
Wed Aug 16 03:57:48 UTC 2006

Walter Vermeir wrote:

>If it comes to the point in this until now hypothetical situation that
>to get a lot of money the independence of the WMF is affected by selling
>a place on the board then advertisement should be reconsidered.
>Myspace.com , Alexa ranking global the 7th place has made a deal with
>google for advertisement for the amount of at least 900 million dollar
>for 3 years. $ 900.000.000.  That is a lot.
>Wikipedia is now on the 16th place. I have no idea how much money the
>WMF could get form a deal with google or yahoo, even if it where a
>limited amount of adds and not (to) annoying. But it can not be anything
>other then a very impressive large pile of money.
>The Wikimedia projects are ad free. That is fantastic. I wonder on what
>ranking place the next ad free website is listed. The wikimedia websites
>are probably unique in that aspect. It could have been something form a
>Seince Fiction movie about a paralleluniversum where there are not ads
>on the internet.
>Nevertheless it is so that Wikimedia has a gold mine. The gold is not
>used out of principle. Instead of living in a castle the WMF lives in
>very modest house but can manage by donations of visitors. And things
>are going better. There is some money in the savings account. There are
>no loans to pay off. There is hope to get some new money without strings
>on. (grands)  And the WMF is still independent. If very large amounts of
>money could go to the WMF but by accepting so the WMF would lose part of
>its independence then I believe putting pride aside and selling some ads
>is much better then selling your soul.
>Ofcource this is all hypothetical. There is (so far I know) no offer
>from Bill Gates or similar to give a large truck load of money with a
>end-user-agreement attached to it.
Two points to consider:

1.  The Wikimedia Foundation is not independent.  It has a stacked Board 
designed by Jimbo to allow him to maintain personal control.   In the 
unlikely event that the Wikimedia Foundation sold an additional Board 
slot it would break Jimbo's control to a possible 50/50 split.   More 
"independence" not less.  Three unaffiliated Board Members could 
deadlock the previously stacked Board anytime they chose.

2.   Jimbo made the committment very early in the project history in 
response to queries from the community creating the initial critical 
momentum and verifiable feasibility at en.wikipedia.   It is very 
possible that there is no gold mine.  Many people enjoy access to 
information without the advertisement and behavior tracking cookies and 
spyware routinely used at commercial sites.  It is very possible that a 
resort to advertisement against Jimbo's steadfast committment to no 
advertising would destroy Wikimedia's largest projects as high volume 
attractions on the internet.   I have seen it alleged that rumours of 
discussions of advertising helped inspire the Spanish Fork.

Personally I suspect one of the major reasons for Wikimedia's projects 
rapid and continuous climb in viewership and editorship is the lack of 
paid advertising.   Nor is it obvious that Wikimedia could try selling 
advertising and then revert if it damaged the site's popularity.   The 
current community of editors has Jimbo's assurance that he will not 
resort to selling advertising.   Grow by word of mouth, die by word of 
mouth.   One of the most effective forms of advertising known even 
though no money changes hands.


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