Wikimedia Foundation


HomepageRelated subjects: Websites and the Internet

Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Logo of the Wikimedia Foundation
Type 501(c)(3) charitable organization
Founded St. Petersburg, Florida, US
June 20, 2003 (2003-06-20)
Headquarters San Francisco, California
Flag of the United States United States
Key people Florence Nibart-Devouard, Chair of the Board
Jimmy Wales, Chairman Emeritus
Sue Gardner, Executive Director
Area served Worldwide
Focus Free, open content, wiki-based internet projects
Method Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikibooks (including Wikijunior), Wikisource, Wikimedia Commons, Wikispecies, Wikinews, Wikiversity and MetaWiki
Revenue $2,734,909 (2007)
Employees 14 paid employee positions

The Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit charitable organization headquartered in San Francisco, California, United States, and organized under the laws of the state of Florida, where it was initially based. It operates several online collaborative wiki projects including Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikibooks (including Wikijunior), Wikisource, Wikimedia Commons, Wikispecies, Wikinews, Wikiversity, and . Its flagship project, the English-language Wikipedia, ranks among the top ten most-visited websites worldwide.

The foundation's creation was officially announced by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, who was previously running Wikipedia within his company Bomis, on June 20, 2003.


The Wikimedia Foundation falls under section 501(c)(3) of the US Internal Revenue Code as a public charity. Its National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) code is B60 (Adult, Continuing Education). The foundation's by-laws declare a statement of purpose of collecting and developing educational content and to disseminate it effectively and globally.

The Wikimedia Foundation's stated goal is to develop and maintain open content, wiki-based projects and to provide the full contents of those projects to the public free of charge.

In addition to the multilingual general encyclopedia Wikipedia, the foundation manages a multi-language dictionary and thesaurus named Wiktionary, an encyclopedia of quotations named Wikiquote, a repository of source texts in any language named Wikisource, and a collection of e-book texts for students (such as textbooks and annotated public domain books) named Wikibooks. Wikijunior is a subproject of Wikibooks that specializes in books for children.


The continued technical and economic growth of each of the Wikimedia projects is dependent mostly on donations but the Wikimedia Foundation also increases its revenue by alternative means of funding such as grants, sponsorship, services (datafeed) and brand merchandising. In March 2008 the foundation announced its largest donation to date: a three-year, $3 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

History and growth

The name "Wikimedia" was coined by Sheldon Rampton in a post to the English Wikipedia's mailing list in March 2003. The name has been criticized for its similarity "Wikipedia" and the software it runs on, " MediaWiki"; this sometimes leads to confusion among people new to the project.

With the foundation's announcement, Wales also transferred ownership of all Wikipedia, Wiktionary and Nupedia domain names to Wikimedia along with the copyrights for all materials related to these projects that were created by Bomis employees or Wales himself. The computer equipment used to run all the Wikimedia projects was also donated by Wales to the foundation, which also acquired the domain names and

In April 2005, the US Internal Revenue Service approved (by letter) the foundation as an educational foundation in the category "Adult, Continuing Education", meaning all contributions to the Wikimedia Foundation are tax deductible for U.S. federal income tax purposes.

On December 11, 2006, the Wikimedia Foundation board noted that the corporation could not become the membership organization initially planned but never implemented due to an inability to meet the registration requirements of Florida Statute. Accordingly, the bylaws were amended to remove all reference to membership rights and activities. The decision to change the bylaws was passed by the board unanimously.

On September 25, 2007, the Wikimedia Foundation board gave notice that the operations would be moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. Major considerations cited for choosing San Francisco were proximity to like-minded organizations and potential partners as well as cheaper and more convenient international travel than is available from St. Petersburg.

Board of Trustees

In January 2004, Jimmy Wales appointed his business partners Tim Shell and Michael Davis to the board of the Wikimedia Foundation. In June 2004, an election was held for two user representative board members. Following one month of campaigning and two weeks of online voting, Angela Beesley and Florence Nibart-Devouard were elected to join the board. In late 2004, Wales and Beesley launched a startup company, Wikia, affiliated with neither Wikimedia nor Bomis. In July 2005, Beesley and Nibart-Devouard were re-elected to the board.

On July 1, 2006, Beesley resigned from the board effective upon election of her successor, expressing concern about "certain events and tendencies that have arisen within the organization since the start of this year," but stating her intent to continue to participate in the Wikimedia projects, and in the formation of an Australian chapter. A special election was held in September to finish Beesley's term, ending with the mid-2007 election. The election was won by Erik Möller.

In October 2006, Nibart-Devouard replaced Wales as chair of the Foundation. On December 8, 2006, the board expanded to seven people with the appointments of Kat Walsh and Oscar van Dillen. Effective December 15, 2006, Jan-Bart de Vreede was appointed to replace Shell.

In the June 2007 election, Möller and Walsh were reelected; van Dillen, who ran for re-election, was narrowly edged by Frieda Brioschi.

Davis left the board in November 2007. Nibart-Devouard's elected term expires in June 2008. The appointed terms for Wales and de Vreede expire in December 2008. Brioschi's and Walsh's elected terms expire in June 2009.

In December 2007, Möller resigned from the Board of Trustees, and was hired as the foundation's deputy director by the executive director.

In February 2008, Florence Devouard announced the addition of two new board members: Michael Snow, an American lawyer and chair of the Communication Committee; and Domas Mituzas, a Lithuanian computer software engineer, MySQL employee, and longtime member of the core tech team.

In April 2008, the board announced a restructuring of its membership, increasing the number of board positions to 10 overall, as follows:

  • Three community-elected seats
  • Two seats to be selected by the chapters
  • One board-appointed 'community founder' seat, to be occupied by Jimmy Wales
  • Four board-appointed 'specific expertise' seats

In the June 2008 board election, Ting Chen was elected for a one-year term.

Volunteer committees and positions

In 2004, the foundation appointed Tim Starling as developer liaison to help improve the MediaWiki software, Daniel Mayer as chief financial officer ( finance, budgeting and coordination of fund drives), and Erik Möller as content partnership coordinator.

In May 2005, the foundation announced the appointment of seven people to official positions:

  • Brion Vibber as chief technical officer (Vibber was also an employee of the Foundation, with other duties)
  • Domas Mituzas as hardware officer
  • Jens Frank as developer liaison
  • Möller as chief research officer
  • Danny Wool as grants coordinator
  • Elisabeth Bauer as press officer
  • Jean-Baptiste Soufron as lead legal coordinator

Möller resigned in August 2005, due to differences with the board, and was replaced by James Forrester. In February 2007, Forrester resigned, and the board appointed Gregory Maxwell to the position, renamed "chief research coordinator".

In January 2006, the foundation created several committees, including the Communication Committee, in an attempt to further organize activities essentially handled by volunteers at that time. Starling resigned that month to spend more time on his PhD program.


Organization chart as of January 2008
Organization chart as of January 2008

The functions of the Wikimedia Foundation were, for the first few years, executed almost entirely by volunteers. In 2005, the foundation had only two employees, Danny Wool, a coordinator, and Brion Vibber, a software manager. Though the number of employees has grown, the foundation's staff is still very small, and the bulk of foundation work continues to be done by volunteers.

As of October 4, 2006, the Wikimedia Foundation had five paid employees: two programmers, an administrative assistant, a coordinator handling fundraising and grants, and an interim executive director, Brad Patrick, previously the foundation's general counsel. Patrick ceased his activity as interim director in January 2007, and then resigned from his position as legal counsel, effective April 1, 2007. He was replaced by Mike Godwin as general counsel and legal coordinator in July 2007. Three further technical contractors were also appointed in December 2006: part-time hardware manager Kyle Anderson in Tampa, full-time MediaWiki software developer Tim Starling, and part-time networking coordinator Mark Bergsma.

In January 2007, Carolyn Doran was named chief operating officer and Sandy Ordonez came on board as head of communications. Doran had begun working as a part-time bookkeeper in 2006 after being sent by a temporary agency. Doran later left the foundation in July 2007, and Sue Gardner was hired as consultant and special advisor (later CEO). Some months after Doran's departure, it was identified that she was a convicted felon, with a DUI arrest during her tenure at the foundation and a substantial criminal history, including shooting her boyfriend and complicity in credit card forgery. Her departure from the organization was cited as one of the reasons the foundation took about seven months to release its fiscal 2007 financial audit. She was incarcerated at the Middle River Regional Jail near Staunton, Virginia.

Danny Wool, officially the grant coordinator but also largely involved in fundraising and business development, resigned in March 2007. In April 2007, the foundation added a new position, chapter coordinator, and appointed Delphine Ménard, then in the position of volunteer coordinator, to fill it, with Cary Bass appointed to replace Ménard in coordinating volunteer services. In May 2007, Vishal Patel was hired to assist in business development. In January 2008, the foundation appointed three new staff: Veronique Kessler as the new chief financial and operating officer, Kul Wadhwa to replace Vishal Patel as head of business development, and Jay Walsh as head of communications.

As of May 8, 2008, the number of employees had grown to fourteen.

In June 2008, the foundation announced two staff additions in fundraising: Rebecca Handler as major gifts officer and Rand Montoya as head of community giving.

Current Board of Trustees

These are the current members of the Board:

  • Florence Nibart-Devouard
  • Frieda Brioschi
  • Jan-Bart de Vreede
  • Jimmy Wales
  • Kat Walsh
  • Michael Snow
  • Domas Mituzas
  • Stuart West
  • Ting Chen

Advisory Board

The Advisory Board is an international network of experts who have agreed to give the foundation meaningful help on a regular basis in many different areas, including law, organizational development, technology, policy, and outreach. The current members are:

  • Angela Beesley
  • Ward Cunningham
  • Heather Ford
  • Debbie Garside
  • Melissa Hagemann
  • Danny Hillis
  • Mitch Kapor
  • Joris Komen
  • Teemu Leinonen
  • Rebecca MacKinnon
  • Wayne Mackintosh
  • Benjamin Mako Hill
  • Erin McKean
  • Trevor Neilson
  • Achal Prabhala
  • Jay Rosen
  • Clay Shirky
  • Peter Suber
  • Raoul Weiler
  • Ethan Zuckerman


The Wikimedia Foundation relies on public contributions and grants to fund its mission of providing free knowledge to every person in the world. It is exempt from federal income tax and from state income tax. It is not a private foundation, and contributions to it qualify as tax-deductible charitable contributions.

At the beginning of 2006, the foundation's net assets were $270,000. During the year, the organization received support and revenue totaling $1,510,000, with concurrent expenses of $790,000. Net assets increased by $720,000 to a total of over one million dollars. In 2007, the foundation continued to expand, ending the year with net assets of $1,700,000. Both income and expenses nearly doubled in 2007. (See also Finance report)

Local chapters

World map showing countries that have local chapters in blue.
World map showing countries that have local chapters in blue.

Wikimedia projects have an international scope. To continue this success on an organizational level, Wikimedia is building an international network of associated organizations.

Local chapters are self-dependent organizations that share the goals of the Wikimedia Foundation and support them within a specified geographical region. They support the foundation, the Wikimedia community and Wikimedia projects in different ways — by collecting donations, organizing local events and projects and spreading the word of Wikimedia, free content and Wiki culture. They also provide the community and potential partners with a point of contact capable of fulfilling specific local needs.

Local chapters are self-dependent associations with no legal control of nor responsibility for the websites of the Wikimedia Foundation and vice versa.

Country Title URL Since
Flag of Argentina Argentina Wikimedia Argentina 02007-09-01 1 September 2007
Flag of Australia Australia Wikimedia Australia 02008-03-01 1 March 2008
Flag of Austria Austria Wikimedia Austria 02008-02-26 26 February 2008
Flag of the Czech Republic Czech Republic Wikimedia Czech Republic 02008-03-06 6 March 2008
Flag of France France Wikimédia France 02004-10-23 23 October 2004
Flag of Germany Germany Wikimedia Deutschland 02004-06-13 13 June 2004
Flag of Hong Kong Hong Kong 香港維基媒體協會 02008-03-01 1 March 2008
Flag of Israel Israel Wikimedia Israel 02007-06-26 26 June 2007
Flag of Italy Italy Wikimedia Italia 02005-06-17 17 June 2005
Flag of the Netherlands Netherlands Wikimedia Nederland 02006-03-27 27 March 2006
Flag of Poland Poland Wikimedia Polska 02005-11-18 18 November 2005
Flag of Serbia Serbia Wikimedia Србије 02005-12-03 3 December 2005
Flag of Sweden Sweden Wikimedia Sverige 02007-12-11 11 December 2007
Flag of Switzerland Switzerland Wikimedia CH 02006-05-14 14 May 2006
Flag of the Republic of China Republic of China 中華民國維基媒體協會 02007-07-04 4 July 2007
Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom Wikimedia UK 02006-02-14 14 February 2006
Retrieved from ""

Permalink: Wikimedia Foundation