Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife Anne Wojcicki Nov. 18 doled out a $500,000 grant to the Wikimedia Foundation, the proprietor of Wikipedia.
The large donation comes after Wikimedia Foundation kicked off its 8th annual fundraiser Nov. 16.
"This grant is an important endorsement of the Wikimedia Foundation and its work, and I hope it will send a signal as we kick off our annual fundraising campaign this week," said Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation.
"This is how Wikipedia works: people use it, they like it, and so they help pay for it, to keep it freely available for themselves and for everyone around the world. I am very grateful to Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki for supporting what we do."
Over the last decade, Wikipedia has become the fifth most popular Website in the world, with some 477 million unique visitors a month, according to comScore. Despite it's global reach, Wikipedia is operated by a modest staff and boosted by collaborators all over the world who help make it available in more than 280 languages.
The service, which is also facing a huge backlog of editorial work, relies on donations to keep afloat and an image of Founder Jimmy Wales asking for donations often appears at the top of the Website's pages.
Wales, whose latest message noted that everyone who came to Wikipedia donated $5 the funding would be over in a single day, wrote an appeal letter:
"Google might have close to a million servers. Yahoo has something like 13,000 staff. We have 679 servers and 95 staff. Wikipedia is the #5 site on the Web and serves 450 million different people every month - with billions of page views. Commerce is fine. Advertising is not evil. But it doesn't belong here. Not in Wikipedia."
Wales' point is that in order for Wikipedia to keep operating freely without taking money from advertisers, which would love to spread their brand messaging across Wikipedia's well-trafficked pages, the Wikimedia Foundation requires donations to keep paying the staff and keep the lights on.
Hence the importance of Brin and Wojcicki's large grant, which comes after Google donated $2 million to help keep Wikipedia running in February 2010.
Brin and Wojcicki, who co-founded genetics company 23andMe, offered the funds under the banner of the Brin Wojcicki Foundation, an organization that funded the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which is researching a cure for Parkinson's disease.
Through 23andMe, Brin learned he has a genetic predisposition toward Parkinson's disease, a fact about which wrote about on his personal blog in 2008.