[Foundation-l] A modest proposal: ads on wikipedia.com

Kat Walsh kat at mindspillage.org
Mon Apr 23 02:18:59 UTC 2007

On 4/22/07, Florence Devouard <Anthere9 at yahoo.com> wrote:

> Two comments
> The first is that in my opinion, refusing ads is not simply an ethical
> position. My problem with ads is that when they are "google ads" type,
> they decreases if not negate the neutrality of an article. An example I
> always use is the article on tires. If we put an ads of Michelin on the
> tire article, then we can not claim it is neutral anymore (Michelin is
> from my city).
> Whether it is on a .org or a .com will not change that.
> I might at best consider ads on the search pages, though not happily.
> But ads on the articles themselves is really something I am not supporting.

I don't think that that's true; arm's length advertisement such as
Google ads would have no realistic way to affect content. Michelin
would have no relationship with us, and we wouldn't care who put ads
or didn't put ads and thus we would have no incentive to favor anyone
who did. (The more layers of separation between the individual
advertisers and those producing the content, the better.)

Would this affect others' *perception* of our neutrality? Maybe, and
that's a big issue to consider. I've heard the argument that we might
be seen as non-neutral come up more from active editors than people
who are only users. Most of the people I talk to who aren't actively
involved in the site don't realize we don't have ads already, though a
small number are happy that it is one of the last ad-free reference
sites you don't have to pay to access.

> The second is that to really bring in money, an ads needs to be on a
> "visited" website. Right now, the visited website is the .org. For ads
> (or any commercial feature for that matter) to be successful, we would
> need to orient visitors to be .com rather than to the .org. So, by
> default, the world would have access to a website 1) with ads, 2) not
> editable and 3) with stable versions.

Indeed, the visited website is the .org. Putting ads on the .org would
bring in boatloads of money at a time, probably more than we are able
to deal with. Putting ads on a less-visited .com? Maybe only small
raft-loads, or a few teacups full; I really don't know. (Of course,
many people do still assume that we are a dot-com and link there
instead of the .org...)

My primary issue with something like that is that I want people who
are interested in editing to have as easy a time as possible figuring
out how to do that, and so I'd want a huge, spinning, singing,
dancing, blinking sitenotice that said "hey, come help us edit" and
linked to the editable .org.

But people visit the non-editable mirrors all the time, and their
viewership helps bring in funding to other sites that are largely
based off of the content produced by the Wikimedia community.

I am not a fan of ads on the main site, not because of neutrality
issues, but because they're distracting and ugly, and the content
isn't useful compared to other things that could be taking up the
screen space; I want us to pursue other funding options. But I don't
think they are contrary to our mission, and I do think we could do a
lot of good work from the steady stream of additional income.


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