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31 July 2012, 11:33

Wikimedia Foundation scales back targets

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Wikipedia logo The organisation behind Wikipedia has scaled back its targets for future growth of the online encyclopaedia. The Wikimedia Foundation's plan for the 2012/2013 financial year, released over the weekend, admits that the US-based organisation last year failed to meet key targets.

For the financial year to June, the foundation had set itself the target of increasing the number of active contributors from 90,000 in March 2011 to 95,000. Instead, user participation has once again fallen. In March 2012, Wikipedia statisticians counted just 85,000 editors who were active more than five times a month. For July 2012, the foundation calculates that this figure has fallen to just 79,000. The proportion of women contributors continues to hover around nine per cent.

The long-term goal of increasing the number of active contributors to 200,000 by 2015 looks a long way off. The foundation does not say why contributor numbers are falling, but does suggest that the drop would have been greater without its wide range of initiatives. It believes that the trend could have been slowed, "but not stopped or reversed." The foundation hopes to stabilise these figures in the coming financial year. The plan calls for weak growth to 86,000 active editors by June 2013. An expansion of the global education program (from 79 to 150 classes with at least 50 per cent female participants) aims to increase the amount of quality content added by students from 19 million characters to 25 million characters.

The organisation is pinning its hopes on the new Visual Editor, which is aimed at making writing articles a lot easier. The WYSIWYG user interface was meant to already be in use in some projects, but technical problems have meant that its launch has had to be delayed until December. It should be sufficiently mature to be used in Wikipedia itself by July 2013. There are, however, also some technical success stories. Uptime for the Wikipedia servers has risen and the revamped mobile sites are seeing increasing usage.

The plan makes no mention of Project AthenaPDF, which has the objective of introducing major changes to the old Wikipedia interface by 2015. Instead, the foundation first wants to make it easier for users to upload images from mobile devices, in order to promote the successful community initiative Wiki Loves Monuments, which involved users uploading images of monuments.

The foundation itself is planning further expansion. The number of employees is set to rise from the current 119 to 174. 30 new technology jobs will be created. Expenditure is also set to rise. The organisation expects expenditure to increase to $42.1 million (€34.4 million) over the current financial year, an increase of a third over the previous year. In view of this level of expenditure, the Board of Trustees has set in motion a review of its priorities. Executive director Sue Gardner may wind down initiatives which should no longer be financed.

(Torsten Kleinz / djwm)

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