Where is Wikimedia now?

What is the current state of Wikimedia?

In eight short years, Wikimedia has changed the global landscape for sharing of knowledge, volunteerism, and collaboration, making the vision of “a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge” a plausible goal.

Some key stats:

  • 13 million articles in 271 different languages
  • More than 17 million pages
  • More than 325 million edits
  • 330 million visitors monthly (in 2009)
  • 100,000 active contributors (in 2009)

However, this is only scratching the surface of Wikimedia's current state. To develop a common understanding of Wikimedia's current state, 3 Fact Bases are under development covering the topics of:

  • Reach: who visits and does not visit Wikimedia's sites and what are the trends?
  • Content & quality: what content exists across Wikimedia's sites and what are the trends in creation and reading?
  • Participation: who contributes to Wikimedia's sites and what are the trends?

Please take a moment to browse these fact bases, edit and add to them.

Check out the entire Fact base. Check out the Reach. Check out the Content & quality. Check out the Participation.

Top risks 2009

See Also


  • Contributors include: editors, Wikipedians, Wikipedists (collectively Participants) and those people who have made a small dollar amount contribution in one of the fundraisers (Donors). In many cases, they are one and the same.

Some key stats:

  • 100,000 active contributors (2009)
  • Have generated and continue to manage and maintain 17 million pages, 13 million articles in 271 different languages... and growing!
  • Created annual conferences called Wikimania
  • Forged alliances with GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, museums) such as U.S. National Institutes of Health and the German Federal Archives
  • Maintain and build out systems, platforms, reports, and
  • Donated ~$6M to Wikimedia Foundation in latest fundraising
  • ...

About Participants

  • The UNU-Merit survey acknowledged what we knew: the average contributor is a single well educated male in his twenties. Another thing we know is that 1% of (registered) users are responsible for 99% of the edits. Recent research confirms that long term or active editors aren't as welcoming to newcomers anymore as they were welcoming prior to the year 2006.
  • To engage more (read, edit, provide input) on editors and others who keep Wikimedia's projects flourishing, please dive into the fact base on Participation

About Donors

  • (...)


  • Current readers are global, with 330 million visitors monthly (in 2009).
  • Most readers come via a search engine (mostly Google)

About Reach

  • The highest penetration of Internet Users reading Wikimedia sites is Canada (>40%), the lowest is China with ~1% of Internet users
  • The U.S. has the lowest penetration of primary English-speaking countries
  • To engage more (read, edit, provide input) on readers, please dive into the fact base on Reach

The leaking circle

The Wikimedia Movement is in an uphill battle to stay afloat. There are multiple factors at play, and these factors are interdependent. It is hard to say where to start.

The leaking circle.

At least half a dozen factors influence each other. Their interdependence has been tentatively sketched in the diagram above. The diagram is based on information from different sources available in this strategic planning process. Below the diagram is annotated.

The strategic planning process is all about reach, participation and quality. The factors education, income and ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) should be added in the big picture to understand the leakiness of the circle. The circle depicts that education drives income, income drives ICT use, ICT use drives reach (of Wikimedia projects), reach drives participation (in Wikimedia projects), participation drives quality (of Wikimedia content), and finally that quality will drive education eventually (at least, that is one way of explaining our mission).

The diagram tells you that an increase in one key factor will positively influence all other key factors in the diagram. The big question is what will most effectively influence one of the key factors?


Use of Wikimedia projects correlates positively and significantly with income. Higher developed or higher income countries or language communities tend to use Wikipedia more often. Higher income is necessary to finance Wikimedia use as a leisure activity and is necessary to fund computer hardware and internet access as long as Wikipedia is predominantly an online thing. However, 98% of monthly income isn’t spent on ICT and other factors and actors are probably as influential on the level of income as is the level of education.

  1. In proposal: Increase the influence of education on income over other factors and actors
  2. Out proposal: Increase the portion of income spent on ICT

ICT (Information and Communication Technologies)

Without computers or without internet Wikipedia wouldn’t exist. However, 75% of internet users never visit Wikipedia, and not only the level of income determines computer use and internet access, but also the relative price of ICT.

  1. In proposal: Reduce the relative price of ICT (handing out millions of netbooks as in the OLPC project could be helpful)
  2. Out proposal: Increase the number of internet users who will visit Wikipedia


Reach of Wikimedia projects is highest in countries with the highest internet use. Reach in Africa is very low, as is internet use in Africa. However, other actors and factors than ICT use influence the reach, and recent research also shows that at least 90% of readers of Wikimedia projects never participate in editing.

  1. In proposal: Increase the number of people who can reach Wikimedia content off line and reduce the influence of factors and actors discouraging the use of Wikimedia
  2. Out proposal: Increase the number of readers who will participate


A very small number of visitors to our projects participate in contributing. However, not only readers or website visitors do participate in our movement others participate as well and make significant contributions. And not all participation leads to improvement of articles directly, or higher quality. Quite a lot of acitvity, time and energy is leaked, for example in vandal fighting and ignoring trolls.

  1. In proposal: Increase the number of people, and the number of partners outside the reader pool who can positively contribute to our movement.
  2. Out proposal: Increase the number of participants who work directly on improving article quality


The drive for quality goes back to day one. The number of proposal received in the strategic planning process that fall in the category improving quality is very high. It looks like quality is what interests and drives most Wikimedians. Five years ago everyone agreed that having ten times as many participants would significantly increase quality of the Wikimedia projects as a whole (and it certainly has done so!). However, nowadays not everybody agrees having ten times as many participants will positively influence quality. We’re not as welcoming to newcomers as we used to be. And looking at the educational purpose, only a tiny little fraction of our content is used in education(al institutions).

  1. In proposal: We’ll have to nurture non-participant factors that have a positive influence on quality; we have to find ways that will cause extra participants to lead to higher quality again; we probably have to become nice to newcomers again.
  2. Out proposal: Bluntly position the Wikimedia Movement as “the global educational institution” won’t lead directly to any positive educational effect alone, but we can partner with existing educational institutions and increase their number in using our content (which they kindly deliver themselves in the first place).


Not only factors influence the Wikimedia Movement. Actors probably dominate the Wikimedia Movement. Jimmy Wales invested multiple years in travelling the world and giving key note speeches about how great Wikipedia is. Chapter members and others organize activities to reach out as well.

Summary fact base findings (to date)

  • In eight short years, Wikimedia has changed the global landscape for sharing of knowledge, volunteerism, and collaboration, making the vision of “a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge” a plausible goal.
  • Wikimedia is a global phenomenon, with accelerating growth outside of the U.S., though many opportunities for future growth still exist within existing populations.
  • Active contributor decline, combined with fewer visitors opting to become contributors and new contributors seeing their edits reverted at increasing rates, raises concerns over the sustainability of contributors and the continued growth of Wikipedias.
  • Wikimedia sites dominate online reference (with increasing popularity of pop culture); however, trends in real-time news and digitization of publishing creates new opportunities, as well as challenges.
  • As Wikimedia expands its content breadth into new areas, quality considerations become heightened, including standardization, consistency, and quality assurance processes.
  • Got more? Please engage more (read, edit, provide input) on the fact bases Fact base