Wikipedia Business Model


Wikipedia is an online platform that provides free open- knowledge. It contains about 24 million articles that have been published in 284 languages. Wikipedia has published around 62 lakh articles in the English language.


It is operated by a foundation called Wikimedia Foundation. It is a non-profit organisation that also hosts a range of other projects, like Wikinews, Wikimapia, Wikiquote, Wikisource, Wikiversity, etc. Wikipedia provides a platform to the people who wish to gain knowledge or search for anything. Wikipedia gains its value from the scale of articles it publishes and the quality of the information in those articles.

A Brief History 

founders of wiki

Wikipedia was started on 15 January 2001. It was started by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. Wikipedia had certain predecessors that had central editing agency, but Wikipedia wanted to go for a mode of a free-as-in-freedom online encyclopedia. Though Wikipedia was built to complement another company called Nupedia, in a short span of time it overtook it. It became a global project which influenced other online reference projects as well. As per Alexa Internet, Wikipedia is the world’s ninth most popular website in terms of global internet engagement in 2019. The monthly readership of Wikipedia across the world is over 495 million. From the U.S  itself, Wikipedia receives over 117 million unique visitors every month. In 2008, the first edit of Wikipedia was made with the text, “Hello, World”. After some time, it started receiving an influx of traffic from Google also.  In the foundation year, Wikipedia created around 20,000 encyclopedia entries, with a rate of 1,500 articles per month. In the first year of its existence, over 20,000 encyclopedia entries were created with a rate of over 1,500 articles per month.

Timeline of Wikipedia

In 2000, Nupedia was started. In 2001, as a side project of Nupedia, Wikipedia was started. In 2002, its major fund giving company, Bommis withdrew and Larry, a co-founder, also withdrew himself from it. In this same year, Jimmy Wales confirmed that Wikipedia would never allow commercial advertising. Further, in 2003, the Wikimedia Foundation was established. By this year, Wikipedia had also published 10 million articles. In the second decade, Wikipedia in other languages also became popular, such as Japanese and German. In the third decade, that is in 2020, the coverage of Wikipedia about COVID pandemic is going to help researchers in the future.

Business model 

A business model describes the methods through which an organization creates, delivers, and captures value, in economic, social, cultural or other contexts. The business model constitutes the construction and modification of business strategies.

Business Model Pattern of Wikipedia


Before this, the encyclopedia was mainly hard copies. With time, hard copies became irrelevant, and they were replaced by a digital encyclopedia. Wikipedia built on this business model, and thus it achieved success.  It competed with Encyclopaedia Britannica and in a 2010 report, Wikipedia was found to be better than Britannica.

Open Source

In Wikipedia, the articles can be edited by anyone and also created by anyone. The modifications to the articles are also published fast. In 2018, Wikipedia’s open-source content database consisted of 2.5 billion individual edits to 50 million articles by 80 million users. Because of this model, Wikipedia always remains updated and provides fresh content.

User Designed

All the content in Wikipedia is designed by the users, which according to the Time magazine is the best model for any digital encyclopedia to have.

Business model elements of Wikipedia

Following are the business model elements of Wikipedia.

wiki business model

Value Proposition

A value proposition means the value an organisation promises to deliver to customers if they choose to buy their product or service. The value proposition of Wikipedia is that it can be edited by anyone. It has a unique cultural impact as it creates articles where people from every region can see and access the articles.

According to the co-founder of Wikipedia:

We will adapt to the shifting trends in technology, to ensure we meet the needs of our users and continue to provide reliable, transparent, and neutral information. We will invite new voices to join us and ensure that anyone who wants to share knowledge on Wikipedia and the Wikimedia sites can do so.

Key Partners

The key partners of Wikipedia are the collaborators, which collaborate with Wikipedia. Wikipedia says that each entry or topic of Wikipedia must be covered in mainstream media or major academic journal sources. Along with that, Wikipedia also has partners in the form of publishers, donors and internet crowd. It has over 30 million registered editors and 1 million active editors. Wikipedia has other partners like Wikisource, Wikimedia, Wikinews, Wikiquote, etc.

Key Activities

Key activities of Wikipedia include administration, content edition, and review of changes. Along with that, it also looks after software and hardware support. Internal research and operational development is also one of the activities of Wikipedia.

Customer Segmentation

Wikipedia works on the model of ‘Divisions and Internationalisation’. It creates different name spaces with distinct usernames to cater to different countries, such as Japan, France, and Italy. It has different language versions that include Chinese, Dutch, Esperanto, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish. Multilingual provision of Wikipedia makes it give content to various segments of people. In 2002, more than 90% of the articles were in English, but in 2014, 85% of the articles were contained within non-English Wikipedia versions. This is possible because of its approach of customer segmentation that gives quality content to students, masses and researchers.

Customer Relationship

Customer relationships refer to the type of relationship a company establishes with its specific customer. These are driven by customer acquisition, customer retention, and boosting sales and services. Wikipedia has its customer relationships in points like diversity, self-service, community service, etc.

Key Resources

Key Resources refers to the most important assets required to make a business model work. These are the resources that allow a company to create and offer a Value Proposition, reach global markets, maintain relationships with customers, and earn revenues. The key resources of Wikipedia are the creators, brands, and staff.

Key Channels 

Channels are an important element of the business model. They describe how a company communicates with and reaches its customer segments. The medium through which Wikipedia communicates with its users are Internet, Website, mobile apps, and Wikipedia stores.

Cost Structure of Wikipedia

Here is the cost structure of Wikipedia

  • Support to the website: These include server costs, ongoing engineering improvements costs, product development costs, design and research costs, and legal support costs.
  • Awards & Grants: These constitute expenses relating to ongoing engineering improvements, product development, design and research, and legal support.
  • Administrative & Governance: These comprise administrative expenditures relating to salaries, recruitment costs and other governance expenses.
  • Fundraising: A section of the revenue is spent to collect more funds for the organization.

Revenue model of Wikipedia

wiki revenue model

The revenue of Wikipedia was more than $109 million in 2019.  However, none of its revenue comes from advertisements, affiliates, or any paid service. Wikipedia runs on a donation-based revenue model where the organisation receives most of its funds in the form of donations from millions of individuals and corporations around the world.  According to the company, the average donation is $15 and is tax-deductible in many countries, thus more people donate through it. Apart from monetary donations, the other sources of revenue for the organisation include:

  • In-Kind Services: These are donations in the form of supplies, equipment, and services.
  • Wikipedia Store:  Through the store, Wikipedia sells merchandise like T-shirts, mugs etc, The organisation sells Wikipedia brand merchandises like T-shirts, mugs, notebooks, etc.


Wrapping up,  Wikipedia is one of the useful online encyclopedias because of its easy editing and collaborative features. As Wikipedia’s tech framework is supported by a non-profit parent organization, the Wikimedia Foundation, it adds more authenticity to the encyclopedia. Wikipedia has to face competition from many online encyclopedias, so it is essential it keeps on updating its model.

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