Some guiding principles for the Wikimedia Foundation were approved by the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees on May 2013 to guide the work of the Wikimedia Foundation, by describing how the Wikimedia Foundation's Mission and Vision are implemented in its work. These are not principles intended to cover the entire Wikimedia movement, just the Wikimedia Foundation. The purpose of these principles is to describe what we do today, and what we intend to keep doing. This document draws from and may come to replace the previous list of values.
The official version is located at Wikimedia Foundation Guiding Principles on the Foundation wiki.
Freedom and open source
The Wikimedia Foundation is deeply rooted in the values of the free culture and free software movements. With the exception of "fair use" material, all information in Wikimedia projects can be freely shared, freely distributed, freely modified and freely used for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial, in perpetuity.
All software code written by the Wikimedia Foundation is licensed under an applicable free software license. We realize our obligations not just to share code, but to cultivate a healthy community of contributors around the source code, and to work with upstream projects and contribute back improvements to their code.
All material in our projects is available in free formats that do not require the user to execute proprietary software.
Consistent with the above principles, we support the right of third parties to make and maintain licensing-compliant copies and forks of Wikimedia content and Wikimedia-developed code, regardless of motivation or purpose. While we are generally not able to individually assist such efforts, we enable them by making available copies of Wikimedia content in bulk, and avoiding critical dependencies on proprietary code or services for maintaining a largely functionally equivalent fork.
As an organization, we strive to use open source tools over proprietary ones, although we use proprietary or closed tools (such as software, operating systems, etc.) where there is currently no open-source tool that will effectively meet our needs.
Serving every human being
The Wikimedia Foundation aims to make material in the Wikimedia projects broadly accessible to all. Ensuring continued reliability, availability and responsiveness of all Wikimedia sites and services is our first priority. In prioritizing new products and features, our goal is to impact the largest-possible number of readers and contributors, and to eliminate barriers that could preclude people from accessing or contributing to our projects, such as poor usability and accessibility, lack of language support, and limited access to technology. We endeavour to create the structural support and the necessary preconditions for bottom-up innovation by others. We do not form agreements in which one organization is given access to material or functionality that others are denied. Where possible, we aim to preserve and support frictionless use of the material in the projects, so that people can share it widely and easily.
The Wikimedia Foundation values transparency. In general, our policies and practices are publicly available on our site unless there’s a particular reason they shouldn't be. Our financial statements, annual plans, Form 990 and other performance/accountability documents are published on our site, often accompanied by explanatory material. As a matter of general practice, unless there’s a particular reason not to, we aim to publish internal organizational policies and procedures, including employee guidelines, financial policies, etc. Detailed site performance information is publicly available, and each month we publicly report on our activities. Most information is available to the public, except where publishing it would infringe on the privacy of other organizations or of individuals. In general, where possible, we aim to do much of our work in public, rather than in private, typically on public wikis.
The Wikimedia Foundation wants to be accountable to the people who create the Wikimedia projects, to donors, and to readers. Our primary stakeholders are i) Wikimedia editors and other contributors, who have created the overwhelming majority of the value in the projects and who are responsible for the goodwill that the projects and the Wikimedia Foundation enjoy, ii) Wikimedia Foundation donors, who give funding that supports the projects’ technical and other needs, and iii) the readers of the Wikimedia projects.
We aim to be careful with donors' money. We pay salaries that are fair but not lavish, and provide reasonable benefits (e.g., health and dental insurance) that are the same for all employees regardless of their title or position. We aim to incur only reasonable travel costs, and to keep work-related entertainment costs moderate.
The Wikimedia Foundation has been entrusted with stewardship of key assets of the Wikimedia movement, such as the Wikimedia brand identity, and we raise large amounts of money for the Wikimedia mission. When we give out movement resources such as grants and trademark permissions, when we allocate internal time and resources, and when we give out money to other movement players, we do so in consideration of the interests of the mission and the entire global community. We aim to enable movement entities to have the freedom and flexibility they need to pursue the mission as they see fit, and yet we also acknowledge that the Wikimedia Foundation plays a special role in safeguarding the projects’ assets and reputation.
The Wikimedia Foundation works in partnership with a global community of volunteers made up of article writers, copy-editors, photographers, administrators, page patrollers, quality assessors, translators, wiki-gnomes, help-desk staffers, developers, bot creators, people who do outreach work and many others. These are the people who build the projects, and they are the Wikimedia Foundation's partners in developing the platform. This community selects Board members who oversee the Wikimedia Foundation’s work. And within the framework of our shared principles and values, the participants on each Project develop their own policies and structures.
The Wikimedia Foundation shares decision-making with the global community, for instance by creating roles for community members to influence key funding decisions (e.g., our various grant processes), by inviting input on-wiki for our own plans and practices, and by actively developing and maintaining relationships with community leaders, agnostic to language, culture, or geography.
In addition to our partnerships with individual volunteers, we work in collaboration with a network of chapter organizations and other Wikimedia movement entities, in our shared pursuit of the Wikimedia mission. Beyond the Wikimedia community, we strive to partner with other users of our technology platform whose interests are aligned with ours in enriching and extending it.
The Wikimedia Foundation supports projects that are international in scope, and we aspire to reflect that internationalism in our own work. We make efforts to support the translation of key documents into multiple languages. We aim to recruit staff who speak multiple languages and who have lived or worked outside the country they were born in. We aim to recruit talented people regardless of where they live, and depending on their preferences and the needs of the job, we support them in working remotely or relocating to the United States. When we consider the community as a whole, we aim to consider all its languages and geographies and to avoid global initiatives that favor communities speaking only our languages.
The Wikimedia Foundation believes that everyone in the world has a right to free access to information, and we are proud of the work the Wikimedia community does to compile information and make it available. Except where required by applicable law, we do not remove information from the Wikimedia projects to satisfy private or government interests. We will never facilitate, enable or condone censorship of the Wikimedia projects.
In making decisions, we will not allow censorship of the projects as a means to facilitate other strategic goals: to the contrary, our strategic goal is to preserve and make available the material in the projects in perpetuity, and other initiatives must be consistent with that mission.
Part of the job of the Wikimedia Foundation is to ensure that the freedom and independence of the projects is never compromised. To that end, and also because it is extremely effective, we have deliberately chosen a revenue strategy in which a large majority of the funding for the Wikimedia Foundation comes from a large number of small donors in multiple countries around the world. This model limits risk, preserves independence by reducing the ability of any one organization or individual to influence our decisions, and aligns our fundraising practices with our mission by encouraging us to pay attention to the projects’ readers.
Because the Wikimedia Foundation does not want to compromise the editorial integrity and independence of the projects, nor risk a perception that we have been compromised, we would be extremely reluctant to put advertising on the projects, or anything that might be perceived as advertising. We do not say that would never happen, because if it were a choice between shutting down the projects and accepting advertisements we would consider doing it. But we think this is highly unlikely, and would only be considered in the gravest of circumstances.
For similar reasons, our Board of Trustees selection process is designed to attract a variety of voices and skillsets, rather than primarily acknowledging donors or celebrities. Other governance structures and processes, such as Board committees, generally function according to this same principle.