Jump to content

Archive:History of the Wikimedia Foundation

From Wikimedia Foundation Governance Wiki
Meta-Wiki logo
This page has been archived.
Its content is no longer being maintained, is likely out of date, and may be inaccurate.
This page can be relocated to Meta-Wiki.

See Memory:Main for replacement content.

The Wikimedia Foundation was founded in 2003 as a non-profit charitable organization in the state of Florida. It has grown since then to support Wikimedia's many projects.

Governance timeline


In 2003, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales started the Wikimedia Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization incorporated in the United States of America, and created its Board of Trustees, appointing himself and two colleagues. In 2004, the Board held its first community elections, leading to victories by Florence Nibart-Devouard and Angela Beasley. In 2005, the Board hired the first staff position at the Foundation, making Brooke Vibber the Chief Technical Officer.


In 2006, the Board hired Brad Patrick to be the Foundation's Interim Executive Director and General Counsel. It created the Communications, Audit, Fundraising, and Chapters committees, and the Wikiversity project. The Board expanded its trustees to 6, with the intention of further expanding to 9 over the coming two years. A Foundation Advisory Board was started, and the Netherlands chapter was recognized. For fiscal year 2006–07, the Foundation's total revenue was $2.7M.

In 2007, the Board hired Sue Gardner as permanent Executive Director, and later moved the Foundation offices from St. Petersburg, Florida, to San Francisco, California. That year the Foundation became a signatory to the Cape Town Open Education declaration in order to support further development of a movement around open educational resources and developed the iconic Wikimedia vision and mission statements. For fiscal year 2007–08, the Foundation's total revenue was $7M.


In 2008, the Board expanded to 10 Trustee seats and ensured that a majority would always be selected by the community. New Wikimedia chapters were recognized in Czech Republic, Austria, Australia, Hong Kong, Russia, Indonesia, Hungary and Norway. That year, Wikimedia received its first grant from the Sloan Foundation of $3 million over three years and it adopted the Pluralism, Internationalism and Diversity Policy designed to support the development of a WMF staff with international experience, languages other than English and the ability to work productively with people of diverse backgrounds. For fiscal year 2008–09, the Foundation's total revenue was $7.7M.

In 2009, after significant consultation process with the community and other stakeholders, the projects were re-licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0 in order to achieve greater interoperability and free knowledge worldwide. The Board issued a statement on biographies of living people, urging the global Wikimedia community to uphold the accurate information within them. The Foundation begain a long-term strategic planning process. New Wikimedia chapters were recognized from the UK, New York, Denmark, Portugal, Ukraine, Macedonia and Finland. The Foundation received a $2M grant from the Omidyar Network to support key objectives, a $900K grant from the Stanton Foundation to improve usability, a $500K grant from the Hewlett Foundation, and a $300,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to increase usability on Wikimedia Commons. For fiscal year 2009–10, the Foundation's revenue was $15.4M.


In 2010, a new fundraising strategy was developed, focusing on fundraising primarily through the annual campaign, to support the continued independence of the Wikimedia movement. The strategy process concluded with five-year targets for the Wikimedia Foundation and movement. The Board called for a task force to review the use of controversial materials on Wikimedia projects. This later concluded with affirming that the Wikimedia projects are not censored, supporting principles of user choice and least astonishment, and asking the Executive Director to develop a personal image hiding feature. The Board also urged the Commons community to continue rigorous curation, and to obtain subject consent for images that portray identifiable living persons in a private place or situation.

New chapters were recognized in the Philippines, India and Estonia. A Movement Roles process was started as a Board-led working group, to discuss and resolve issues affecting movement-wide governance, collaboration and decision making. This later concluded with an expanded framework for recognizing groups as part of the Wikimedia movement, including models for thematic organizations, partners, and user groups. Google's Charitable Giving Fund donated $2M to support core operations and Charity Navigator raised the Wikimedia Foundation from 3-Star to 4-Star, the highest possible rating. For fiscal year 2010–11, the Foundation's revenue was $23.8M.

In 2011, the Donor Privacy Policy was updated. The Board released a statement encouraging openness and collaboration in the Wikimedia movement, calling on the Executive Director to make it the top staff priority. The Foundation began reviewing fundraising and funds dissemination practices, with guidance from the Board and the Audit Committee. New chapters were recognized in Spain, South Africa, Macau, Canada, Chile, Mexico, District of Columbia, Bangladesh and Venezuela. The Foundation received its largest donation to date: $3.6M from the Stanton Foundation to fund major investments in technology infrastructure, another $3M grant over three years from the Sloan Foundation and $500K from the Brin Wojcicki Foundation. For fiscal year 2011–12, the Foundation's revenue was $34.8M.


In 2012, new terms of use were devised for the projects, to clarify the rights and responsibiilities of readers and editors, following public discussion. The Board created the Funds Dissemination Committee, to align future funding decisions with global community goals. Votes of individual trustees on resolutions became public. The Foundation received a $1.25M donation from Lisbett Rausing and Peter Baldwin.

History of the Board

The history of the Board of Trustees and its process can largely be gleaned from its relevant resolutions and votes. From 2004 to 2006, the Board was fairly operational, handled most executive and governance issues that arose for the Foundation, which was still small and without an executive director.

In 2006 it expanded the number of Ttrustees, and the early trustees who had come over from Bomis to ensure a smooth start to the Foundation were gradually replaced with appointed trustees. Since then, and particularly once a permanent ED was chosen in 2007, the Board has provided strategic leadership and oversight for the Wikimedia Foundation in various capacities.

Below is an index of resolutions and votes about its processes and Trustee appointments.


Further work and process of the board before 2007 can be found in the meeting minutes. Beginning in 2006, a formal list of resolutions was kept.








See also