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"" redirects here. It is not to be confused with  or Commons.

Coordinates: 37°47′13″N 122°23′59″W / 37.78697°N 122.399677°W / 37.78697; -122.399677

Foundation, Inc.
Type 501(c)(3) charitable organization
Founded St. Petersburg, Florida, United States
June 20, 2003 (2003-06-20)
Founder(s) ]]
Key people Jan-Bart de Vreede, Chair of the Board[1]
Sue Gardner, Executive Director
Area served Worldwide
Focus(es) Free, open content, wiki-based internet projects
Method(s) World Heritage Encyclopedia, , , , , Commons, , , , , , Incubator and
Revenue US$38,479,665 (2011/2012)[2] (mostly from donations)
Volunteers 350,000 (2005)[3]
Employees 142 (as of September 2012)[4]
Website .org

File: movement DE EN.pdf

Foundation, Inc. is an American 501(c)(3) charitable organization headquartered in San Francisco, California. It is organized under the laws of the state of Florida, where it was founded and initially based.

It operates several online collaborative wiki projects including World Heritage Encyclopedia, , , , , Commons, , , , , , Incubator, and . It also owned the now-defunct Nupedia. Its flagship project, World Heritage Encyclopedia, ranks in the top-ten most-visited websites worldwide.[5] The creation of the foundation was officially announced on June 20, 2003, by World Heritage Encyclopedia co-founder Jimmy Wales,[6] who had been operating World Heritage Encyclopedia under the aegis of his company Bomis.[7]


The 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).[8][9] The foundation's by-laws declare a statement of purpose of collecting and developing educational content and to disseminate it effectively and globally.[10]

The 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.[11] This is possible thanks to its Terms of Use (updated and approved on June 2009, to adopt CC-BY-SA license).

History and growth

File:WMF StrategicPlan2011 spreads.pdf


Although World Heritage Encyclopedia's popularity skyrocketed, revenues to fund the project stagnated. Since World Heritage Encyclopedia became a drain on Bomis' resources, Wales and Sanger, thought of different way to fund the project - charity.[6] The Foundation was created from World Heritage Encyclopedia and Nupedia on June 20, 2003.[12] It applied to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to trademark World Heritage Encyclopedia on September 17, 2004. The mark was granted registration status on January 10, 2006. Trademark protection was accorded by Japan on December 16, 2004, and, in the European Union, on January 20, 2005. Technically, a service mark, the scope of the mark is for: "Provision of information in the field of general encyclopedic knowledge via the Internet." There are plans to license the use of the World Heritage Encyclopedia trademark for some products, such as books or DVDs.[13]

The name "" was coined by American author Sheldon Rampton in a post to the English mailing list in March 2003.[14]

With the foundation's announcement, Wales also transferred ownership of all World Heritage Encyclopedia, , and Nupedia domain names to 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 projects was also donated by Wales to the foundation, which also acquired the domain names ".org" and ".org".

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

On December 11, 2006, the foundation's 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.[15]

On September 25, 2007, the foundation's 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, a better talent pool, as well as cheaper and more convenient international travel than is available from St. Petersburg, Florida.[16][17][18]

The one billionth edit to a project took place on April 16, 2010.[19]

In 2013, the Foundation has abandoned efforts to combat explicit pornographic content on World Heritage Encyclopedia because its board members were not able to reach a consensus on a technical matter.[20]

Original Board of Trustees

Main article: Board of Trustees
  • In January 2004, Jimmy Wales appointed his business partners Tim Shell and Michael E. Davis to the foundation's board. 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 nor Bomis, except for their presence as principals/trustees. 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 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 defeated by Frieda Brioschi.
  • Davis left the board in November 2007. Nibart-Devouard's elected term expired in June 2008. The appointed terms for Wales and de Vreede expired in December 2008. Brioschi's and Walsh's elected terms expired 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.[21]
  • 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[22]
  • In the June 2008 board election, Ting Chen was elected for a one-year term, then in September Frieda Brioschi resigned to be elected at the board of Italia.
  • In the August 2009 board election, Ting Chen was re-elected, while Kat Walsh and Samuel Klein were elected, effective until July 2011.
  • In the July 2010 board election, Michael Snow was replaced as chair of the board, although he retains his place on the Advisory Board.
  • In the June 2011 board election, Ting Chen, Kat Walsh, and Samuel Klein were re-elected.
  • In the June 2012 board election, Patricio Lorente and Alice Wiegand were elected.[23]
  • In the December 2012 special meeting, Bishakha Datta was re-elected.[24]

Volunteer committees and positions

File:Wiki feel stupid v2.ogv

In 2004, the foundation appointed Tim Starling as developer liaison to help improve the 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:[26]

  • 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

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.[27] Starling resigned that month to spend more time on his PhD program.


The foundation's functions were, for the first few years, executed almost entirely by volunteers. In 2005, it 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 foundation had five paid employees:[28] two programmers, an administrative assistant, a coordinator handling fundraising and grants, and an interim executive director,[29] 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, who served as general counsel and legal coordinator from July 2007[30] until 2010.

In January 2007, Carolyn Doran was named chief operating officer and Sandy Ordonez joined as head of communications.[31] Doran began 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). Her departure from the organization was cited by Florence Devouard as one of the reasons the foundation took about seven months to release its fiscal 2007 financial audit.[32]

Danny Wool, officially the grant coordinator but also largely involved in fundraising and business development, resigned in March 2007. Wales was accused by former Foundation employee Danny Wool of misusing the foundation's funds for recreational purposes. Wool also stated that Wales had his credit card taken away in part because of his spending habits, a claim Wales denied.[33] In February 2007, the foundation added a new position, chapters coordinator, and hired Delphine Ménard,[34] who had been occupying the position as a volunteer since August 2005. Cary Bass was hired in March 2007 in the position of volunteer coordinator. In May 2007, Vishal Patel was hired to assist in business development.[35] Oleta McHenry was brought in as accountant in May 2007, through a temporary placement agency and made the official full-time accountant in August 2007. 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.

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.[36] Soon afterward, Sara Crouse was hired as head of partnerships and foundation relations.[37] In fall 2008, the foundation hired three software developers: Tomasz Finc, Ariel Glenn, and Trevor Parscal.[38]

In May 2011, the foundation had 65 employees. A list of Foundation staff can be found at the Foundation's staff page.

According to Business Insider, "In September of 2012, there was a quite a bit of media attention surrounding two World Heritage Encyclopedia employees (yes, they do have some paid personnel – including Jimbo who makes more than $50K per event where he is a speaker) who were running a PR business on the side and editing World Heritage Encyclopedia on behalf of their clients."[39]


Board of Trustees

These are the members of the Board of Trustees and the expiry of their terms, as of August 2013:[40]

  • Jan-Bart de Vreede, Chair (December 2013)
  • Phoebe Ayers, Vice Chair (July 2015)
  • Bishakha Datta (December 2014)
  • Samuel Klein (July 2015)
  • Patricio Lorente (July 2014)
  • María Sefidari (July 2015)
  • Ana Toni (December 2014)
  • Jimmy Wales (December 2013)
  • Stu West (December 2013)
  • Alice Wiegand (July 2014)

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.[41] As of August 2013, the members are:

Projects and initiatives


Main article: projects

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

The launch dates shown below are when official domains were established for the projects and/or beta versions were launched; preliminary test versions at other domains are not considered.


Main article: Wikimania

Each year, an international conference called Wikimania brings the people together who are involved in the organizations and projects. The first Wikimania happened in in London.

Strategic Plan

File: Strategic Plan.ogv

In response to the growing size and popularity of World Heritage Encyclopedia, the Foundation announced a Strategic Plan to improve and sustain the movement. The plan was announced in July 2009, followed by a process of interviews and surveys with people from across the movement, including board of trustees, members of staff and volunteer editors.[42] After wide consultation, the ongoing plan was intended to be the basis of a five-year plan to further outreach, improve content quality and quality control, and optimising operational areas such as finance and infrastructure.[43]

World Heritage Encyclopedia Usability Initiative

In December 2008, the Foundation announced a restricted donation grant of $890,000 from the Stanton Foundation, to improve World Heritage Encyclopedia's accessibility.[44] Later named the World Heritage Encyclopedia Usability Initiative, the grant was used by the Foundation to appoint project-specific staff to the technology department.[45]

A series of surveys were conducted throughout 2009. This began with a Qualitative Environment Survey on extensions, followed by a Qualitative Statistical Survey focusing on volume of edits, number of new users, and related statistics. In March 2009, a Usability and Experience Study was carried out on new and non editors of the English World Heritage Encyclopedia. The aim was to discover what obstacles participants encountered while editing World Heritage Encyclopedia, ranging from small changes to more complicated syntax such as templates. The study recruited 2500 people for in-person laboratory testing via the World Heritage Encyclopedia website, which was filtered down to ten participants. The results were collated and used by the technology team to improve World Heritage Encyclopedia's usability.[46] The Usability and Experience Study was followed up by the Usability, Experience and Progress Study in September 2009. This study recruited different new and non editors for in-person trials on a new World Heritage Encyclopedia skin.[47]

The initiative ultimately culminated in a new World Heritage Encyclopedia skin named Vector, constructed based on the results of the usability studies. This was introduced by default in stages, beginning in May 2010.[48]

Public Policy Initiative

In May 2010, the Foundation announced the Public Policy Initiative, following a $1.2 million donation by the Stanton Foundation. The Public Policy Initiative was set up to improve articles relating to public policy-related issues.[49] As part of the initiative, World Heritage Encyclopedia collaborated with ten universities to help students and professors create and maintain articles relating to public policy.[50] Volunteer editors of World Heritage Encyclopedia, known as "ambassadors", provided assistance to students and professors. This was either done on campus sites or online.[51]


Main article: List of chapters

chapters are national (or in some cases sub-national) not-for-profit organisations created to promote the interests of projects locally. They support the foundation, the community and projects in different ways—by collecting donations, organizing local events/projects and conducting outreach.[52] The chapters are independent of the Foundation with no legal control of nor responsibility for the projects. The organisations are recognised and overseen by a Chapters Committee; following approval they enter into a "Chapters Agreement" with the foundation.[53][54] As of April 2012 there were 39 recognised chapters.[55]

Disputes and lawsuits

Main article: List of litigation involving the Foundation

Many disputes have resulted in litigation[56][57][58][59] while others have not.[60] Attorney Matt Zimmerman stated, "Without strong liability protection, it would be difficult for World Heritage Encyclopedia to continue to provide a platform for user-created encyclopedia content."[61]

In December 2011, the Foundation hired Washington, DC lobbyist Dow Lohnes Government Strategies LLC to lobby the United States Congress with regard to "Civil Rights/Civil Liberties" and "Copyright/Patent/Trademark."[62] At the time of the hire the Foundation was concerned specifically about a bill known as the Stop Online Piracy Act.[63]


File: Foundation Interview with Chief of Finance and Administration Garfield Byrd October 7, 2011.webm

The Foundation relies on public contributions and grants to fund its mission.[64] It is exempt from federal income tax[64][65] and from state income tax.[64][66] It is not a private foundation, and contributions to it qualify as tax-deductible charitable contributions.[64] The continued technical and economic growth of each of the projects is dependent mostly on donations but the Foundation also increases its revenue by alternative means of funding such as grants, sponsorship, services and brand merchandising. The OAI-PMH update feed service, targeted primarily at search engines and similar bulk analysis and republishing, has been a source of revenue for several years,[64] but is no longer open to new customers.[67] DBpedia was given access to this feed free of charge.[68]

Since the end of fiscal year ended 2004, the Foundation's net assets have grown from $57K[69] to $34.9M at the end of fiscal year ended June 30, 2012.[2] Under the leadership of Sue Gardner, who joined the Foundation in 2007, the Foundation's staff levels, number of donors and revenue have seen very significant growth.[70]

Year Total Support and Revenue Total Expenses Increase in Net Assets Net Assets at End of Year
2003/2004[71] $80,129 $23,463 $56,666 $56,666
2004/2005[71] $379,088 $177,670 $211,418 $268,084
2005/2006[71] $1,508,039 $791,907 $736,132 $1,004,216
2006/2007[72] $2,734,909 $2,077,843 $654,066 $1,658,282
2007/2008[73] $5,032,981 $3,540,724 $3,519,886 $5,178,168
2008/2009[74] $8,658,006 $5,617,236 $3,053,599 $8,231,767
2009/2010[75] $17,979,312 $10,266,793 $6,310,964 $14,542,731
2010/2011[76] $24,785,092 $17,889,794 $9,649,413 $24,192,144
2011/2012[2] $38,479,665 $29,260,652 $10,736,914 $34,929,058

In 2007, Charity Navigator gave an overall rating of three out of four possible stars[77] (one out of four in efficiency, which has been criticised[78]). Charity Navigator gave three out of four possible stars in overall rating for fiscal years 2008 and 2009 which improved to four-stars in 2010.[79] The current overall rating is four stars – three stars for Financial, four stars for Accountability and Transparency.[80]

There are both supporting and opposing arguments regarding whether should switch to an advertising-based revenue model.[81]


In March 2008, the Foundation announced a large donation, at the time its largest donation yet: a three-year, $3 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.[82]

In 2009, the Foundation received four grants – the first grant was a $890,000 Stanton Foundation grant which was aimed to help study and simplify user interface for first-time authors of World Heritage Encyclopedia.[83] The second was a $300,000 Ford Foundation Grant, given in July 2009, for Commons that aimed to improve the interfaces and workflows for multimedia uploading on websites.[84] In August 2009, the Foundation received a $500,000 grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.[85] Lastly, in August 2009, the Omidyar Network issued a potential $2M in "grant" funding to .[86]

In 2010, Google donated $2M to the Foundation.[87] Also in 2010, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation pledged a $800K grant and all was funded during 2011.

In March 2011, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation authorized another $3 million grant to continue to develop and maintain the Foundation's mission. The grant is to be funded over three years with the first $1 million funded in July 2011 and the remaining $2 million is scheduled to be funded in August 2012 and 2013. In August 2011, the Stanton Foundation pledged to fund a $3.6 million grant of which $1.8 million was funded and the remaining is scheduled to be funded in September 2012. This is the largest grant received by the Foundation to-date.[88] In November 2011, the Foundation received a $500K donation from Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife.[89][90]

In 2012, the Foundation was awarded a grant of $1.25 million from Lisbet Rausing[89] and Peter Baldwin through Charities Aid Foundation, which is to be funded in five equal installments. The first installment of $250,000 was received in April 2012 and the remaining are to be funded in December 2012 through 2015.


The foundation employs technology including hardware and software to run its projects.


currently runs on dedicated clusters of Linux servers (mainly Ubuntu),[91][92] with a few OpenSolaris machines for ZFS. As of December 2009, there were 300 in Florida and 44 in Amsterdam.[93] World Heritage Encyclopedia employed a single server until 2004, when the server setup was expanded into a distributed multitier architecture. In January 2005, the project ran on 39 dedicated servers in Florida. This configuration included a single master database server running MySQL, multiple slave database servers, 21 web servers running the Apache HTTP Server, and seven Squid cache servers.

World Heritage Encyclopedia receives between 25,000 and 60,000 page requests per second, depending on the time of day.[94] Page requests are first passed to a front-end layer of Squid caching servers.[95] Further statistics are available based on a publicly available 3-months World Heritage Encyclopedia access trace.[96] Requests that cannot be served from the Squid cache are sent to load-balancing servers running the Linux Virtual Server software, which in turn pass the request to one of the Apache web servers for page rendering from the database. The web servers deliver pages as requested, performing page rendering for all the language editions of World Heritage Encyclopedia. To increase speed further, rendered pages are cached in a distributed memory cache until invalidated, allowing page rendering to be skipped entirely for most common page accesses.


The operation of depends on , a custom-made, free and open source wiki software platform written in PHP and built upon the MySQL database.[97] The software incorporates programming features such as a macro language, variables, a transclusion system for templates, and URL redirection. is licensed under the GNU General Public License and it is used by all projects, as well as many other wiki projects. Originally, World Heritage Encyclopedia ran on UseModWiki written in Perl by Clifford Adams (Phase I), which initially required CamelCase for article hyperlinks; the present double bracket style was incorporated later. Starting in January 2002 (Phase II), World Heritage Encyclopedia began running on a PHP wiki engine with a MySQL database; this software was custom-made for World Heritage Encyclopedia by Magnus Manske. The Phase II software was repeatedly modified to accommodate the exponentially increasing demand. In July 2002 (Phase III), World Heritage Encyclopedia shifted to the third-generation software, , originally written by Lee Daniel Crocker. Several extensions are installed[98] to extend the functionality of software. In April 2005, a Lucene extension[99][100] was added to 's built-in search and World Heritage Encyclopedia switched from MySQL to Lucene for searching. Currently Lucene Search 2.1,[101] which is written in Java and based on Lucene library 2.3,[102] is used.

Foundation also uses CiviCRM[103] and WordPress.[104]

See also

Florida portal
San Francisco Bay Area portal


External links

Documents (reports, plans etc.)

  • Foundation 2010–11 Annual Plan (published on June 29, 2010)
  • Foundation's financial report, .org
  • The Foundation annual report, .org
  • The Foundation bylaws PDF (259 KB), .org
  • Financial statements 2004–2005–2006 PDF (90.2 KB),


  • -pedia, knowledge-base,
  • Public Record for Foundation Inc., Division of Corporations – Florida Department of State,
  • Charity Navigator,
  • Sheldon Rampton's WikiEN-l post, mail.World Heritage
  • (An independent internal news bulletin for the members of the community)
  • Twitter
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