Hundreds of long-term Wikipedia editors have requested the Wikimedia Foundation to stop accepting cryptocurrency donations. This vote emanated from a proposal by contributor Molly White (@GorillaWarfare), who got over 200 of her colleagues to endorse the proposal.
This request underscores the broader debate on crypto acceptance and its legitimacy in the financial sector. In the past few years, virtual currencies have gained gradual momentum with unprecedented institutional adoption. Nonetheless, some opposition still lingers, as this proposal makes apparent.
Justification for the Proposal
The Wikimedia Foundation takes donations from the public, among the donation options being cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Ms. White is asking the foundation to stop accepting these donations, a proposal the Foundation will consider and decide the way forward.
The proposal states that accepting crypto donations signals the Wikimedia Community’s endorsement of these digital assets. White terms them as extremely risky investments and claims that the Foundation’s acceptance legitimizes the “inherently predatory” investments.
She anchors her opposition mainly on environmental grounds. White claims that cryptocurrencies don’t align with the Foundation’s commitment to environmental sustainability. Bitcoin and Ethereum, in particular, headline the proposal because of their energy-intensive mining processes. The proposal cites research on Bitcoin’s carbon footprint and how it is a net polluter of the environment.
Additionally, the proposal urges the foundation to emulate Mozilla Foundation’s decision to reevaluate crypto donations. This decision came after pressure from supporters, including co-founder Jamie Zawinski.
Ultimately, the proposal claimed that there wouldn’t be a significant impact if the Foundation stopped taking crypto donations. The Foundation has yet to provide data on how much it takes in crypto donations, which would shed more light on the veracity of this claim.
Why Does Wikipedia Need Donations?
Many internet users don’t even think twice before reading a Wikipedia article with the information they seek. It is a free tool for knowledge for readers globally. Unlike internet giants like YouTube and Facebook, Wikipedia does not rely on advertising for revenue. This position puts Wikipedia at a disadvantage as other major internet sites can leverage their significant ad revenue for operations.
Therefore, reader donations help to make up some ground. The non-profit Wikimedia foundation receives these donations and helps maintain the network of volunteer contributors, editors, and engineers vital in sustaining this resource. Some of the donations were from corporations and even merchandise sales.
Accepting crypto donations was an extension of this drive. Cryptocurrency is the currency of the internet age, and using it to promote this resource is sound. Well, that may change if the Foundation accepts this proposal.
Analyzing the Proposal
Environmental concerns about Bitcoin mining are nothing new. Criticism has come from far and wide, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The difficulty and inefficiency of the Proof of Work (POW) consensus inspired Ethereum to switch to Proof of Stake (POS). This algorithm is the consensus for most second and third-generation cryptocurrencies.
The volatility aspect of the proposal is less convincing. After all, cryptocurrencies to fiat swaps are easily available. Wikimedia Foundation does not need to have a stash of crypto from the donations.
The Wikimedia Foundation is yet to respond to this proposal. There is a distinct possibility that it could restrict donations to only non-POW coins and tokens. Such a move would be a compromise of still accepting cryptocurrency donations while taking a stand against Bitcoin mining.
Mozilla took this approach. POS cryptocurrencies don’t rely on intensive hardware input to confirm transactions. Therefore, the electricity consumption of POS cryptocurrencies is virtually negligible relative to Bitcoin.
Some within the Bitcoin community have invested in renewable energy sources to support mining operations. This momentum increased after Tesla CEO Elon Musk temporarily stopped Bitcoin payments for environmental concerns.
Institutional investment in Bitcoin is still wildly beyond what its early user hoped a decade ago. Nonetheless, its inefficient mining algorithm may prove an Achilles Heel for broader adoption.
What the Future Holds
It will be fascinating to see what the Foundation decides. Institutions like these have an ethical high ground and can be decisive in determining the broader adoption of cryptocurrencies. Crypto enthusiasts hope that the Foundation will not throw out the baby with the bathwater. There is too much innovative dynamism and diversity in the blockchain industry to warrant a more measured response.
- oberon-copeland-veryinformed-com-EtCxIuaG-zU-unsplash: Photo by Oberon Copeland @veryinformed.com