Google donates $2 million to Wikimedia

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Google has made a $2 million donation to the Wikimedia Foundation, the organisation behind Wikipedia.

News of the philanthropic gesture surfaced not from Google itself, but from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who announced the donation in a tweet earlier this week. "Google has donated $2 million to the Wikimedia Foundation! Formal announcement tomorrow," the tweet read.

An official statement followed yesterday, with Google co-founder Sergey Brin confirming some of the details.

"Wikipedia is one of the greatest triumphs of the internet. This vast repository of community-generated content is an invaluable resource to anyone who is online," Brin's statement read.

Wikimedia's operations are financed primarily from individual donations. A recent fund-raising drive saw 240,000 people contributing over $8 million or 75 per cent of the organisation's budget for the year.

Spokesman Jay Walsh said the money would primarily be directed at expanding the organisation's technical infrastructure. At present it relies on a pair of data centres in Florida and Amsterdam with bandwidth coming courtesy of a Dutch company.

"Considering the rise of server traffic from outside of Europe and the US, it has become important for us to look at expanding our data centres in new locations," Walsh said.

In addition, Walsh said the money would go towards ongoing efforts aimed at increasing contributions from subject-matter experts, students and academics.

Wikipedia is the best known of Wikimedia's projects, and since its launch in 2001 has grown to include in excess of 14 million articles, all contributed and edited by the site's own users.

The organisation's other projects feature a similar community-driven approach, such as the Wikibooks book resource and the Wikimedia Commons repository of images and media files.

Despite the formidable grant the first time Google has supported the non-profit foundation the search giant is in fact a direct competitor to Wikipedia through Knol, a community-driven article base launched in 2008. However, Knol's modest success thus far has been limited mainly to academic circles.