Sue Gardner To Step Down From Wikipedia

Sue Gardner is going to be stepping down as the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization that oversees Wikipedia.  Gardner, 45, will be leaving Wikimedia in the next 6 months once a successor is chosen.  Gardner has plans to become an outspoken advocate for an open Internet by starting a non-profit group, writing a book, or joining an advocacy organization.

“Wikipedia will be fine,” said Gardner in an interview with The New York Times. “It’s a behemoth, and people love it.”  In the interview she added “I worry about the broader conditions of a free and open Internet and the future of other Wikipedia-like projects.”

Gardner took became the head of the Wikimedia Foundation in 2007, which is around a time that people questioned the accuracy of the content.  Wikipedia depends on tens of thousands of editors that volunteer to write and edit entries.  Today Wikipedia is available in 285 languages.  Wikipedia hits around 488 million unique visitors per month and is the fifth largest website in the world.

In terms of total assets, the Wikimedia Foundation reported around $49.3 million between July 1st and December 31, 2012.  This is substantially higher than the $5.6 million that the Foundation had as of the end of June 2008.

Back in 2007, the Wikimedia Foundation was based in a shopping center in St. Petersburg, Florida where they had less than 10 employees and raised less than $3 million per year.  After Gardner moved the Wikimedia Foundation to San Francisco, they now have around 160 paid employees.  The most recent fund-raising drive saw donations of around $25 million across 1.2 million donors.

Gardner decided that the turning point for her decision to leave Wikimedia took place last year when Wikipedia “blacked out” to protest two anti-piracy bills that were brought up in Washington D.C., known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).  Gardner believes that she could do more to help protect an open Internet.

Wikipedia was founded on January 15, 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. Sanger came up with the name Wikipedia, which is a portmanteau of “wiki” (collaborative website from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning quick) and “encyclopedia.”

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