Wikipedia rakes in £83,000 in Bitcoins amid Wikipedia Zero launch

Wikipedia has seen a huge spike in donations in the week following its decision to accept Bitcoins as donations. The free encyclopaedia began taking donations in the new cryptocurrency as part of its annual donations drive, and has so far netted a sizable $140,000 (£83,000).

Rather than locking the Bitcoins up in a digital vault somewhere, Wikipedia is instantly converting any donated Bitcoins into the much more stable US dollar.

While £83,000 isn't much considering the huge amount Wikipedia is able to raise through PayPal, credit cards and Amazon payments, it definitely counts as a significant success, considering how new the channel is, and how recently payments began being accepted by the online knowledge store.

The drive for donations comes as parent company Wikimedia this week revealed the initial successes of its Wikimedia Zero project, and speculation has been rife that this little bit of philanthropy might be behind pushing Wiki's donations skywards.

According to the latest figures, 350m people in 29 countries can now access and edit all portions of the encyclopaedia free of data charges, thanks to deals with mobile carriers in the developing world.

Wikipedia Zero was inspired by Facebook Zero, an initiative undertaken by the social networking giant, whereby providers waive data charges for accessing Facebook on phones via a stripped-down text-only version of its mobile website, located at 0.facebook.com or zero.facebook.com.

"By working with mobile operators, we can enable anyone to read and edit for free," explained Erik Möller, Wikipedia's engineering chief.

"We must provide the best possible experience for these users, both for reading and for contributing content, to truly enable every person on the planet to share in the sum of all knowledge."

The programme now stretches to Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Jordan and Bangladesh, and this year also added Kosovo, Nepal and Kyrgyzstan to the list.

At the end of July, Facebook also rolled out its long-anticipated Internet.org programme, similarly designed to increase connectivity and access to online resources in the developing world.