For those frequenters of Wikipedia, that vast public storehouse of information and insight, you all know what time of year it is: fundraising time. Atop each page perches a simple, elegantly worded request from Jimmy Wales and Brandon Harris for users to donate a few dollars towards the modest upkeep of this so useful and essential online encyclopedia.

For those who don’t understand why this yearly fundraiser is necessary, and for those who think that the site is asking for too much, here is a breakdown of why the site needs money, and an explanation of how little they really are asking:

Considering the scope of the site, Wikipedia employs exceedingly few full-time employees– just 95. Simply paying each of these employees the modest salary of $40 000/year would cost the site 3.8 million dollars. Factor in all the servers and equipment necessary for the upkeep of such a high-traffic site, and they need a considerable amount of money. There budget is made public, and you can see where donations are going this year here.

Wikipedia is the 5th most frequented website on the Internet, hosting millions of articles across 281 languages. But despite racking up so much traffic, it does not host ads. The reasons are many, a few being that hosting advertisements could interfere with the neutrality of the site’s content, changing of customers, conflict of interest, loss of contributors, and independence over design.

  • Wikipedia, as an encyclopedia, aims to keep all its information factual and neutral in voice. Advertisers may feel entitled to make Wikipedia coverage of their companies more favourable if advertisements were added.

  • Once advertisements are added, Wikipedia changes from a universal purveyor of information to a purveyor of user attention to advertisers.

  • Some advertisements seek to mislead the viewer, conflicting with Wikipedia’s interest in educating users.

  • Wikipedia’s information is user-generated and user-edited, and many contributors vigorously oppose advertisements. Posting advertisements on Wikipedia could lose the site many valuable contributors–Wikipedia’s main asset.

  • The addition of advertisements might incite advertisers to try to affect Wikipedia’s layout to increase click-through’s of advertisements.

A full list of the reasoning behind Wikipedia’s ad-free nature can be found here.

Wikipedia pools the collective knowledge of the Internet in one convenient location, while maintaining a relatively high standard for its information and its display, as well as facilitating debate over concepts and facts. It uses its money extremely efficiently and is transparent with its expenditures. Despite being the fifth most popular website on the internet, it employs only 95 full-time employees. It really takes advantage of one of the best uses for the internet, but can’t generate its own revenue through advertisements because of the nature of the site. If you want, donate a few bucks here if you’ve got the extra money, or visit the Mahjong Club’s joint fundraiser for Wikipedia in December.