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Wikipedia is still disrupting after 15 years

Birthday cake

A cake from a Wikipedia celebration in Tehran, Iran (Credit: Mardetanha/Wikipedia)

Techradar: In your view, what are some of Wikipedia's biggest successes?

Maher: It's easy, 15 years in, to forget how disruptive Wikipedia was at the time. If you asked someone whether a completely volunteer non-profit where people edited articles and maintained it would have made it, people would have said, "What?" It's been an incredible success as a free knowledge resource. We reach millions of people a month, often in places where people don't have access to museums, libraries, or even schools. Wikipedia has completely transformed the accessibility of information to millions of people around the world.

It also shows that there is a space in the world for these large scale, aspirational visions about how we can come together in the spirit of international cooperation and create something that is in the service of humanity. We can cross all these boundaries of language and culture and unite people around a common goal.

Techradar: As a nonprofit, where does Wikipedia stand when it comes to fundraising through donations? Can you count on donations to keep you going?

Maher: As for Wikipedia's long-term sustainability, today we announced the launch of an endowment fund for the Wikimedia Project, the Wikimedia Endowment, which will keep it going in perpetuity. We are looking over the course of the next 10 years to raise $100 million dollars to support Wikimedia in perpetuity. It won't go toward our year-to-year budget, but it will safeguard us if things change.

As for the day-to-day, we are incredibly privileged that about 1% of readers is a donor who donates $15 on average, which is remarkably generous. That sustains us. This year we are raising our annual budget, and that has been our practice for years. Like I said, it is a privilege that people support us.

Techradar: The Wikimedia Endowment sounds like a safeguard against a 'who knows what will happen' kind of future.

Maher: That's exactly right. We have to think about ways that funding models may change and that the internet can change. We've been here for 15 years, and the world has changed around us, and we anticipate it will continue to change.

Wikipedia is created by people, so it changes as people change. It's not so much a site as a living organism. It changes as people come online and the concept of free knowledge responds to the world, so we need to be prepared.