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How Much is Wikipedia Worth?

Consider this the next time Jimmy Wales shows up asking you for money: Wikipedia is worth tens of billions of dollars.

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Wikipedia is one of the most trafficked sites in the world, with something like 4.3 million articles in English and a total of 22 million articles written in 285 languages. But how much is it worth? Jonathan Band and Jonathan Gerafi of Infojustice tried to answer that question. They write:

Is there a way to measure the economic value of this content? Because Wikipedia is created by volunteers, is administered by a non-profit foundation, and is distributed for free, the normal means of measuring value—such as revenue, market capitalization, and book value—do not directly apply.

But the two researchers identified a few factors that could help answer the question: market value, replacement cost and consumer value. They looked at what other sites that get similar traffic are worth, how much people would be willing to pay for Wikipedia if it weren’t free, and how much it would cost to replace the site. In the end Band and Gerafi conclude that the website is worth “tens of billions of dollars” and has a replacement cost of $6.6 billion dollars.

For context, it costs the site $25 million each year to run. And for comparison, Twitter’s recent IPO announcement has their company valued at about $12.8 billion. Band and Gerafi write, “The millions of hours contributed by volunteer writers and editors leverage this modest budget, funded by donations, into an asset worth tens of billions of dollars that produces hundreds of billions of dollars of consumer benefit.”

Something to consider the next time Jimmy Wales shows up asking you for money.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Can Wikipedia Edits Predict Box Office Success?
The Ten Most Controversial Articles on Wikipedia Might Surprise You

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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