What is Wikipedia worth?
I donated a bit of money to Wikipedia this year, and I just got another appeal to donate a bit more. It's penned -- at least in theory -- by Jimmy Wales, the site's founder, and it makes a good case for the project:
Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park. It is like a temple for the mind. It is a place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others. It is a unique human project, the first of its kind in history. It is a humanitarian project to bring a free encyclopedia to every single person on the planet.[...]
I don't get paid a cent for my work at Wikipedia, and neither do our thousands of other volunteer authors and editors. When I founded Wikipedia, I could have made it into a for-profit company with advertising, but I decided to do something different.
Commerce is fine. Advertising is not evil. But it doesn't belong here. Not in Wikipedia.
If you were going to try and value Wikipedia, how would you do it? And when I say "value," I don't mean in terms of the potential revenue stream if you added advertisements and sponsored entries. Wales analogizes Wikipedia to a public good, which I think is correct. So what's it worth to the public?
I don't know the answer, but I suspect the number is rather huge. I get much more daily value out of Wikipedia than pretty much any other intellectual or reference product I can think of, and it's much less replaceable. If the New York Times folded tomorrow, I'd read more Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. (Of course, if Tthe Washington Post folded tomorrow, I'd be in more trouble.)
At any rate, this is a long way of thinking that it's easy to just assume Wikipedia is around and will stay around and will keep becoming better and more useful, but its continued health does require a revenue stream, and I'm pretty sure that most of its users are paying a lot less than its actually worth to them. So if you can spare it, you might think of throwing them a couple bucks. They've got enough users that if everyone gave a dollar, the project would be secure basically forever.
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