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> Who owns Wikipedia?, I am not a lawyer
thekohser
post Fri 28th January 2011, 3:50pm
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QUOTE(radek @ Fri 28th January 2011, 2:18am) *

Cause and effect. It's the brand name. That is the value. No brand name no traffic, even with all the google support and all that. Traffic is the RESULT of the brand name.


No, it is not.

If Google decided tomorrow to copy Wikipedia's content to a new site called "Sergeypedia.com", and Google elected to remove Wikipedia domains from search results and to replace them with Sergeypedia links, I guarantee you and would be willing to bet you $100 (while there would be some significant outcry from the tech press about "Google being evil") that Sergeypedia (for at least a month, even if left absolutely unimproved by any Google gimmicks) would be a Top 20 website and Wikipedia would fall out of the Top 20.

Radek, if you can find some support for your logic, I would be amused to see it.

This post has been edited by thekohser: Fri 28th January 2011, 3:52pm
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anthony
post Fri 28th January 2011, 3:54pm
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QUOTE(thekohser @ Fri 28th January 2011, 3:50pm) *

If Google decided tomorrow to copy Wikipedia's content to a new site called "Sergeypedia.com", and Google elected to remove Wikipedia domains from search results and to replace them with Sergeypedia links, I guarantee you and would be willing to bet you $100 (while there would be some significant outcry from the tech press about "Google being evil") that Sergeypedia (for at least a month, even if left absolutely unimproved by any Google gimmicks) would be a Top 20 website and Wikipedia would fall out of the Top 20.


The problem with that argument is that Google wouldn't do that. And in fact, people use Google because it wouldn't do that.
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thekohser
post Fri 28th January 2011, 4:10pm
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QUOTE(anthony @ Fri 28th January 2011, 10:54am) *
The problem with that argument is that Google wouldn't do that. And in fact, people use Google because it wouldn't do that.


Radek specifically said, "even with all the google support and all that".

I found that to be a false claim.
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dogbiscuit
post Fri 28th January 2011, 4:12pm
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Could you run through Verifiability not Truth once more?
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QUOTE(anthony @ Fri 28th January 2011, 3:54pm) *

QUOTE(thekohser @ Fri 28th January 2011, 3:50pm) *

If Google decided tomorrow to copy Wikipedia's content to a new site called "Sergeypedia.com", and Google elected to remove Wikipedia domains from search results and to replace them with Sergeypedia links, I guarantee you and would be willing to bet you $100 (while there would be some significant outcry from the tech press about "Google being evil") that Sergeypedia (for at least a month, even if left absolutely unimproved by any Google gimmicks) would be a Top 20 website and Wikipedia would fall out of the Top 20.


The problem with that argument is that Google wouldn't do that. And in fact, people use Google because it wouldn't do that.

Says who? Google will strip people out of search results if they think that they have been gaming the system, they will change the formula they use, and they would also come up with a plausible "do no evil" reason why the substitution was appropriate (like all the content is the same, but is no longer managed by teenage male IT geeks with too much time and too little ambition, but instead by experts of all genders).
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anthony
post Fri 28th January 2011, 4:33pm
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QUOTE(dogbiscuit @ Fri 28th January 2011, 4:12pm) *

QUOTE(anthony @ Fri 28th January 2011, 3:54pm) *

QUOTE(thekohser @ Fri 28th January 2011, 3:50pm) *

If Google decided tomorrow to copy Wikipedia's content to a new site called "Sergeypedia.com", and Google elected to remove Wikipedia domains from search results and to replace them with Sergeypedia links, I guarantee you and would be willing to bet you $100 (while there would be some significant outcry from the tech press about "Google being evil") that Sergeypedia (for at least a month, even if left absolutely unimproved by any Google gimmicks) would be a Top 20 website and Wikipedia would fall out of the Top 20.


The problem with that argument is that Google wouldn't do that. And in fact, people use Google because it wouldn't do that.

Says who?


I think you answered that yourself: "QUOTE(anthony @ Fri 28th January 2011, 3:54pm)"

QUOTE(dogbiscuit @ Fri 28th January 2011, 4:12pm) *

Google [snip reasonable and irrelevant points] would also come up with a plausible "do no evil" reason why the substitution was appropriate (like all the content is the same, but is no longer managed by teenage male IT geeks with too much time and too little ambition, but instead by experts of all genders).


That's ridiculous.

QUOTE(thekohser @ Fri 28th January 2011, 4:10pm) *

QUOTE(anthony @ Fri 28th January 2011, 10:54am) *
The problem with that argument is that Google wouldn't do that. And in fact, people use Google because it wouldn't do that.


Radek specifically said, "even with all the google support and all that".

I found that to be a false claim.


Touche. I should have known better than to argue with you about marketing smile.gif.

Still, I contend that, in the short term (months, maybe even a year or two), the trademark is pretty much everything the single biggest asset, in any realistic (i.e., non-dogbiscuit) scenario.

(I changed my mind from "pretty much everything" to "the single biggest asset", because the technical expertise is also a big factor. Even though all the source code (that I know of) is open, there's still quite a lot of expertise in how to run a top-20 website using Mediawiki and MySQL, which would be quite expensive to replicate in a short amount of time.)

This post has been edited by anthony: Fri 28th January 2011, 4:49pm
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dogbiscuit
post Fri 28th January 2011, 6:25pm
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Could you run through Verifiability not Truth once more?
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It seems antony's been drinking the Google juice.

Still, I can't imagine Google doing anything wrong, not copyright theft, not intercepting and storing private information. No, they are the perfect ethical company who will never advantage their own interests above others and anyone who says otherwise is clearly barking.

Woof! Woof!
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Peter Damian
post Fri 28th January 2011, 7:02pm
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QUOTE(thekohser @ Fri 28th January 2011, 4:29am) *

QUOTE(Peter Damian @ Thu 27th January 2011, 5:54pm) *

Does anyone know who I would approach? I would leave a message on jimbo's page but not sure he anything to do with it. Also needs to be discrete.

Anyone from the WMF reading this please feel free to PM me and we can talk business, absolute discretion assured.


Peter, I am willing to credit each and every one of the WMF board members with enough intelligence and street smarts to know better than to go brokering some kind of "discrete" deal with someone who's trying to coordinate it by publicly asking questions he doesn't know the answer to, and who imagines "leaving a message on Jimbo's page" might have any favorable impact on the success of the highly volatile and risky gambit that you propose.

What happens when you line up 45% of the board, but then the next trustee you try to get to follow suit goes to the Associated Press and Slashdot with the whole story?

You know I have every respect for you, but you're sounding a bit bonkers here. Are you drinking large mugs of mead, or something?


Well I try to signal humour or irony by saying things that are so obviously absurd that no one will possibly think I am serious. Didn't the bit about the PM ring a bell?

Oh well.
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Jon Awbrey
post Fri 28th January 2011, 7:08pm
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QUOTE(Peter Damian @ Fri 28th January 2011, 2:02pm) *

Well I try to signal humour or irony by saying things that are so obviously absurd that no one will possibly think I am serious. Didn't the bit about the PM ring a bell?

Oh well.


Wikipediots and those who hang with 'em too much eventually become desensitized to absurdity.

So watch out for that …

Jon tongue.gif
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thekohser
post Fri 28th January 2011, 7:22pm
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QUOTE(Peter Damian @ Fri 28th January 2011, 2:02pm) *

Well I try to signal humour or irony by saying things that are so obviously absurd that no one will possibly think I am serious. Didn't the bit about the PM ring a bell?

Oh well.

You didn't go "over the top" quite enough. I thought the whole opening salvo of this thread was a bit ill-formed. That wasn't part of the slapstick, too, was it?
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Peter Damian
post Fri 28th January 2011, 9:33pm
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QUOTE(thekohser @ Fri 28th January 2011, 7:22pm) *

QUOTE(Peter Damian @ Fri 28th January 2011, 2:02pm) *

Well I try to signal humour or irony by saying things that are so obviously absurd that no one will possibly think I am serious. Didn't the bit about the PM ring a bell?

Oh well.

You didn't go "over the top" quite enough. I thought the whole opening salvo of this thread was a bit ill-formed. That wasn't part of the slapstick, too, was it?


Well there was a serious point to it too.
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Peter Damian
post Fri 28th January 2011, 9:36pm
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QUOTE(Peter Damian @ Thu 27th January 2011, 8:00pm) *

I've heard claims here occasionally that Wikipedia could be sold off. Is that possible? Who actually owns it? What is it they actually own? Could anyone get their hands on it and make a ton of money from ? What would they be getting their hands on?


I suppose it should have been "Could anyone get their hands on it and make a ton of money from it? " That was a bit ill-formed yes.

I learned touch typing a few years ago and I find the hands have a quite different concept of spelling and grammar than my head does.

Horsey, if he is reading this, will remember 'The Red Shoez' of cours.

QUOTE
A young woman sees a pair of red shoes in a shop window, which are offered to her by the demonic shoemaker. She puts them on and begins to dance with her boyfriend. They go to a carnival, where she seemingly forgets about the boyfriend as she dances with every man she comes across. Her boyfriend is carried away and nothing is left of him but his image on a piece of cellophane, which she tramples.

She attempts to return home to her mother, but the red shoes, controlled by the shoemaker, keep her dancing. She falls into a netherworld, where she dances with a piece of newspaper which turns briefly into her boyfriend. She is then beset by grotesque creatures, including the shoemaker, who converge upon her in a manner reminiscent of The Rite of Spring. They abruptly disappear, leaving her alone. No matter where she flees, the shoes refuse to stop dancing.

Near death from exhaustion, clothed in rags, she finds herself in front of a church where a funeral is in progress. The priest offers to help her. She motions to him to remove the shoes, and as he does so, she dies. He carries her into the church, and the shoemaker retrieves the shoes, to be offered to his next victim.


Dancing, typing. Anyway, a bit off-topic. No one has PM'd me yet.

This post has been edited by Peter Damian: Fri 28th January 2011, 9:39pm
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gomi
post Fri 28th January 2011, 10:08pm
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QUOTE(Peter Damian @ Fri 28th January 2011, 1:36pm) *
I suppose it should have been "Could anyone get their hands on it and make a ton of money from it?"

Let me ask a different question first: If someone was willing to [i]spend a substantial amount of money to destroy Wikipedia, how would they go about it?[/i]

The are corollaries to this is: Is there a way to destroy Wikipedia while making a lot of money? and Are there ways to make a lot of money from Wikipedia content which might or might not have the side-effect of destroying Wikipedia?

I frankly think that all of the answers turn out to be the same. If someone cared to invest in copying the Wikipedia article base, cleaning it up to make it safe for children and pets, correcting its many problems (mostly by deleting content), radically improving the GUI, changing the contributed-content and editorial models, and then marketed the hell out of it and found a couple ways to monetize it (other than dumb banner advertising), with a few years and many millions of dollars, you could eclipse Wikipedia and send it (more rapidly) into decline. I can imagine a business plan for this, but I doubt I would invest in it. It's too much work for too little upside, other than destroying Wikipedia. Hence the first question.

A more likely scenario (but harder to describe) is that Wikipedia is eclipsed by The Next Big Thing™ and suffocates under its own weight. But that will take longer and is less certain.
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Peter Damian
post Fri 28th January 2011, 10:30pm
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QUOTE(gomi @ Fri 28th January 2011, 10:08pm) *

QUOTE(Peter Damian @ Fri 28th January 2011, 1:36pm) *
I suppose it should have been "Could anyone get their hands on it and make a ton of money from it?"

Let me ask a different question first: If someone was willing to [i]spend a substantial amount of money to destroy Wikipedia, how would they go about it?[/i]

The are corollaries to this is: Is there a way to destroy Wikipedia while making a lot of money? and Are there ways to make a lot of money from Wikipedia content which might or might not have the side-effect of destroying Wikipedia?

I frankly think that all of the answers turn out to be the same. If someone cared to invest in copying the Wikipedia article base, cleaning it up to make it safe for children and pets, correcting its many problems (mostly by deleting content), radically improving the GUI, changing the contributed-content and editorial models, and then marketed the hell out of it and found a couple ways to monetize it (other than dumb banner advertising), with a few years and many millions of dollars, you could eclipse Wikipedia and send it (more rapidly) into decline. I can imagine a business plan for this, but I doubt I would invest in it. It's too much work for too little upside, other than destroying Wikipedia. Hence the first question.

A more likely scenario (but harder to describe) is that Wikipedia is eclipsed by The Next Big Thing™ and suffocates under its own weight. But that will take longer and is less certain.


Well one set of figures suggested the site was worth $50m a year. It's a different question and it's a different thread on how you would make that work without destroying it.

On who makes these decisions, how are the trustees elected? Suppose there were a model in which some of the existing adminstration survived and were paid a stipend to do what they currently do unpaid. Is it they who vote for the trustees? how?

Another separate question. What would adminstrators accept as payment for doing what they currently do on Wikipedia? $10,000? $20,000? I don't know.

[edit] OK I see how. http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Board_elections/2009/en

Who voted in these? If you offered them $5,000 each, how would they vote?

This post has been edited by Peter Damian: Fri 28th January 2011, 10:34pm
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radek
post Fri 28th January 2011, 11:25pm
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QUOTE(thekohser @ Fri 28th January 2011, 9:50am) *

QUOTE(radek @ Fri 28th January 2011, 2:18am) *

Cause and effect. It's the brand name. That is the value. No brand name no traffic, even with all the google support and all that. Traffic is the RESULT of the brand name.


No, it is not.

If Google decided tomorrow to copy Wikipedia's content to a new site called "Sergeypedia.com", and Google elected to remove Wikipedia domains from search results and to replace them with Sergeypedia links, I guarantee you and would be willing to bet you $100 (while there would be some significant outcry from the tech press about "Google being evil") that Sergeypedia (for at least a month, even if left absolutely unimproved by any Google gimmicks) would be a Top 20 website and Wikipedia would fall out of the Top 20.

Radek, if you can find some support for your logic, I would be amused to see it.


I disagree - that Sergeypedia would be top 20, not sure about whether Wikipedia would fall out of top 20 -- and which Top 20 are we talking about? -- - but in the absence of a controlled experiment how do we know?
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carbuncle
post Sat 29th January 2011, 12:07am
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QUOTE(radek @ Fri 28th January 2011, 11:25pm) *

QUOTE(thekohser @ Fri 28th January 2011, 9:50am) *

QUOTE(radek @ Fri 28th January 2011, 2:18am) *

Cause and effect. It's the brand name. That is the value. No brand name no traffic, even with all the google support and all that. Traffic is the RESULT of the brand name.


No, it is not.

If Google decided tomorrow to copy Wikipedia's content to a new site called "Sergeypedia.com", and Google elected to remove Wikipedia domains from search results and to replace them with Sergeypedia links, I guarantee you and would be willing to bet you $100 (while there would be some significant outcry from the tech press about "Google being evil") that Sergeypedia (for at least a month, even if left absolutely unimproved by any Google gimmicks) would be a Top 20 website and Wikipedia would fall out of the Top 20.

Radek, if you can find some support for your logic, I would be amused to see it.


I disagree - that Sergeypedia would be top 20, not sure about whether Wikipedia would fall out of top 20 -- and which Top 20 are we talking about? -- - but in the absence of a controlled experiment how do we know?

I am of the opinion, based on not much at all, that Google artificially inflates WP's ranking in search results because it is a reliably decent result for many searches. Better to get a WP article first than a linkfarm.
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gomi
post Sat 29th January 2011, 12:41am
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QUOTE(Peter Damian @ Fri 28th January 2011, 2:30pm) *
On who makes these decisions, how are the trustees elected? Suppose there were a model in which some of the existing adminstration survived and were paid a stipend to do what they currently do unpaid. Is it they who vote for the trustees?
Most non-profits have "self-selecting" Boards, i.e. they nominate their own members. Wikipedia is unusual in that it provides for one or more "Community" members. I have not read the WMF Bylaws, but I suspect that such community members are a (small) minority of the maximum board size, and thus ultimately powerless. If these are serious questions, go read the WMF Bylaws and/or Articles of Incorporation, and that will answer most of your questions.
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post Sat 29th January 2011, 3:17am
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QUOTE(radek @ Sat 29th January 2011, 10:25am) *

QUOTE(thekohser @ Fri 28th January 2011, 9:50am) *

QUOTE(radek @ Fri 28th January 2011, 2:18am) *

Cause and effect. It's the brand name. That is the value. No brand name no traffic, even with all the google support and all that. Traffic is the RESULT of the brand name.


No, it is not.

If Google decided tomorrow to copy Wikipedia's content to a new site called "Sergeypedia.com", and Google elected to remove Wikipedia domains from search results and to replace them with Sergeypedia links, I guarantee you and would be willing to bet you $100 (while there would be some significant outcry from the tech press about "Google being evil") that Sergeypedia (for at least a month, even if left absolutely unimproved by any Google gimmicks) would be a Top 20 website and Wikipedia would fall out of the Top 20.

Radek, if you can find some support for your logic, I would be amused to see it.


I disagree - that Sergeypedia would be top 20, not sure about whether Wikipedia would fall out of top 20 -- and which Top 20 are we talking about? -- - but in the absence of a controlled experiment how do we know?


Wikipedia's rank would eventually deflate but it would IMO still be scraping Top 20. Google's Knol has many articles that wikipedia has, yet Knol is not doing very well in search rankings for those articles that you might expect. Sergeypedia might not do any better. Wikipedia's huge size and masses of incoming links means it wont fade away that quickly, even if there is a competitor about. Sadly.
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Peter Damian
post Sat 29th January 2011, 8:28am
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QUOTE(gomi @ Sat 29th January 2011, 12:41am) *

QUOTE(Peter Damian @ Fri 28th January 2011, 2:30pm) *
On who makes these decisions, how are the trustees elected? Suppose there were a model in which some of the existing adminstration survived and were paid a stipend to do what they currently do unpaid. Is it they who vote for the trustees?
Most non-profits have "self-selecting" Boards, i.e. they nominate their own members. Wikipedia is unusual in that it provides for one or more "Community" members. I have not read the WMF Bylaws, but I suspect that such community members are a (small) minority of the maximum board size, and thus ultimately powerless. If these are serious questions, go read the WMF Bylaws and/or Articles of Incorporation, and that will answer most of your questions.



And behold it is here

http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_F...on_bylaws/en-us

And note here

QUOTE
The powers of the corporation shall be exercised, its properties controlled, and its affairs conducted by a Board of Trustees to be comprised initially of five trustees. All trustees must be active (contributing or volunteer) or life members of the Foundation.


but also

QUOTE
The property of this corporation is irrevocably dedicated to charitable purposes and no part of the net income or assets of this corporation shall ever inure to the benefit of any director, officer or members thereof or to the benefit of any private individual.

ARTICLE VIII: DISTRIBUTION OF ASSETS
Upon the dissolution or winding-up of this corporation, its assets remaining after payment, or provision for payment, of all debts and liabilities of the corporation shall be distributed to a nonprofit fund, foundation, or corporation which is organized and operated exclusively for charitable purposes and which has established its tax exempt status under Section 501©(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, or corresponding provisions of subsequent federal tax laws.
http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_F...ATION_OF_ASSETS


I would have to read more carefully to understand whether this still allowed Wikipedia (i.e. the name, the servers, the URL itself) to be sold. I suppose there is this:


QUOTE
These bylaws may be altered, amended or repealed and new Bylaws may be adopted by a majority of the entire Board of Trustees at any regular meeting or special meeting, provided that at least ten days written notice is given of intention to alter, amend or repeal or to adopt new Bylaws at such meeting.


As I'm reading Article VII, there is nothing to stop the Trustees authorising the sale, or the leasing, of Wikipedia to a non-profit, so long as the assets or the income from the sale were used for charitable purposes. It is no different from when my church, which had a building previously used for Scout meetings, sold the building for conversion into condos. The money from the sale was used to build a community centre.

If you look at what the WMF talks about and what it actually uses the money it raises for, very little of it is to do with Wikipedia. It's all about outreach and stuff, and building Wikimedia communities. These ambitions could be easily achieved if the Foundation sold its main asset - Wikipedia - to a third party, for a sum of money (or an income) which would enable them to achieve these laudable aims.

E.g. Bishakha Datta here http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Board_of_Trustees is "dedicated to disseminating women's perspectives through media, art and culture. " Fantastic. Here's a lot of money, Bishakha, for you to achieve these objectives. Samuel Klein is devoted to getting one Laptop per Child for everyone in the development. Here's a cheque for $100m Sam, take yourself off to PC World and get buying!

This post has been edited by Peter Damian: Sat 29th January 2011, 8:47am
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thekohser
post Sat 29th January 2011, 1:01pm
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QUOTE
...no part of the net income or assets of this corporation shall ever inure to the benefit of any director, officer or members thereof or to the benefit of any private individual.


I think Jimbo already proved that this particular rule hasn't been followed. (See the January 2009 decision to rent office space from Wikia, even though it wasn't the lowest bidder, and it was the only landlord asked to re-submit its bid in light of the other bids received.)
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post Sat 29th January 2011, 10:35pm
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QUOTE(Kelly Martin @ Fri 28th January 2011, 1:00am) *
QUOTE(gomi @ Thu 27th January 2011, 4:46pm) *
This is not an exhaustive list. The Wikimedia Foundation would be within its right to sell the Wikipedia site to a for-profit company in exchange for a revenue stream. That for-profit company could shut down all user accounts and install advertising if they wanted to. The resulting revenue stream would (for a time) be very substantial. The Wikimedia Foundation would need to use the proceeds from such a sale for its charitable purpose.
And, in fact, it would probably have to do this if it wanted to monetize the site, because of the restrictions on charities receiving income from business activities. The wholly owned for-profit subsidiary would have to pay corporate income taxes, and distribute some or all of the retained earnings after taxes back to its parent nonprofit. (See also the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation.) Arguably Wikipedia should have been set up this way in the first place.


Mmm... nonprofits can sell advertising, and can pay officers fat salaries. It's what they do with the profit that affects nonprofit status. Selling ads for a publication is not an unrelated business if the business is publishing, as it is. It's just a means of accomplishing the purpose: education, right?

Yes, the WMF, if it sold the name, would have to use the proceeds for a charitable. Purpose. Without impugning any member of the board, but from what happens sometimes in other nonprofits, the WMF would toss it in a big endowment, and then host conferences in plush resorts so that the board can be "advised" as to what to do. Absolutely, they'd need that corporate jet to ferry the board members and other staff around, right?

Bottom line, Wikipedia is owned by a nonprofit corporation, which is controlled by a self-elected board. Self-elected? Don't we vote for the board members? Sure. Those votes are advisory only. Who makes the bylaws? Believe me, this is all pretty standard, boringly so.

The community has real power because the community provides the labor to maintain the project and to expand it. Generally, it seems, the WMF has been terrified that the hoi polloi will organize and actually exert power, that's why, my guess, anything that hints of off-wiki coordination is snuffed ASAP.

My view, it's all short-sighted. But quite traditional.
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