Should Wikipedia advertise?

When your teacher throws you some foreign concept or term, and you’re too lazy to read your textbook or go to the library to find out, what’s the next easiest thing to do? Other than asking the friend sitting beside you (which may or may not be a very credible source of information, depending on who your friend is), the next best thing you could do is to “Wiki” it!

As you may already know, Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia where internet volunteers can access the articles, create and edit content. These volunteers and contributors are not paid at all, but they do it because they see it as a contribution to this online treasure trove of knowledge. Wikipedia uses a free, open-source software platform called MediaWiki. It is built upon the MySQL database and written in PHP.

Wikipedia is 10 years old this year and it boasts more than 400 million users, and has 26 million articles in 271 languages. As you can see from the info-graphic above, it is the 8th most visited website in the world!

Referring to an article titled ‘Ten things you may not know about Wikipedia’, it is mentioned that Wikipedia is “not for sale” – which means that Wikipedia wants to remain a non-commercial website and relies completely on donations and grants to keep it going. Furthermore, Wikipedia only has a small team of 66 salaried staff so as to keep its costs down. All the other people who work there are unpaid volunteers! It has been said that “Wikipedia might be the only example of a site that has broken the Web 2.0 misconception that ‘having no revenue model is a viable approach’.

However, since it is non-profit and relies completely on donations, Wikipedia has had some trouble garnering donations over the years. There was one year where they could not meet their targeted funding amount until Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar donated $2 million and Google stepped in with another $2 million gift to the foundation. This is even though Wikipedia regularly pleads for user donations with banners across the top of its site.
In one article, Alex Konanykhine, founder and president of, argues that the business model adapted by Wikipedia is not sustainable, since it only relies on donations. This means that qualified professionals, who expect to be paid for their services, will not be contributing to these Wiki articles, while the average man on the street can. This greatly reduces the credibility of the articles.

Reinforcing Konanykhine’s point, David Barbieri, the director of operations in, said “the community of anonymous volunteers has led to an adverse relationship with experts on important issues, organizations and businesses. This severely limits the potential growth of Wikipedia”.

Now that we have seen both sides of the arguments, the question I would like to pose is, should Wikipedia introduce advertisements?  I personally lean towards the introduction of advertisements to Wikipedia’s sites, if that is what is needed to keep it going. However, these ads should be filtered carefully and targeted to the audience accordingly, and preferably relate to the subject content of that Wiki page. This is so that Wikipedia will not be overloaded with unnecessary ads that so not add value to its readers, and which are only there purely as a revenue-generating element.

So what do you think? Should Wikipedia say yes or no to advertisements?

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