NEW YORK (Reuters) - With China virtually cut off and Western markets maturing, Wikipedia is targeting India first and possibly Brazil next to reach its goal of 1 billion users, Executive Director Sue Gardner says.
The San Francisco-based online encyclopedia, which turns 10 years old on Saturday, also vows to reach that goal in the next five years while maintaining its status as a non-profit organization.
Wikipedia claims 410 million unique visitors a month — fifth most in the world — making it the envy of many for-profit rivals in the Silicon Valley who aspire to generate such numbers.
“We’re a little bit confounding to folks in Silicon Valley because they look at us and see the potential for monetization, just because their entire world is geared toward monetization,” Gardner told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. She spoke on Tuesday but her remarks were embargoed until Wednesday.
“We don’t move in the world of IPOs and valuation and investment,” said Gardner, who runs the non-profit foundation behind Wikipedia. “We never talk about it, we never think about it.”
For now Wikipedia is content to function on its operating budget of about $20 million a year, raised mostly through donations, with the primary goal of adding more readers.
This year it will open its first overseas office, in India, where Wikipedia hopes to increase readership and articles in English and several Indian languages, she said. Among 316 events marking the 10th anniversary in 104 countries, 60 events were scheduled inside India.
“Our main strategic focus right now is on India and other countries in the developing world. Massive numbers of people are starting to get connected to the Internet, mostly through mobile phones but also through traditional PCs,” she said.
“Brazil is provisionally next,” Gardner said.
China will have to wait until Wikipedia has guarantees its content will not be censored.
Wikipedia has opted against moving servers into China because of the condition it would have to agree to government limits on publishing.
“We made a decision that we weren’t going to collaborate in our own filtering,” she said.
The company relies on some 100,000 regular contributors who work for free — “Isn’t it amazing?” Gardener said — and the general public to write and edit its articles in 270 languages.
The site carries 17 million articles in English, adding 1,100 per day.
Although Wikipedia allows virtually anyone to add or alter entries without oversight, the journal Nature reported in 2006 its accuracy was close to that of Encyclopedia Britannica.
Wikipedia, which says its quality controls stop most “vandals” from posting maliciously inaccurate articles for very long, was also working with 12 universities to increase the quality of articles about public policy, Gardner said.
“Over time, people are trusting us more,” she said.
Reporting by Daniel Trotta; editing by Cynthia Osterman