Wikimedia’s Executive Director has just resigned following months of leadership controversy

Wikimedia’s Executive Director has just resigned following months of leadership controversy

After a fair bit of controversy over the past few months, which included a sacking, a resignation and a search engine that riled up some anger, Wikimedia Executive Director Lila Tretikov has resigned from her role. Her last day will be March 31, 2016.

The troubles began after Wikimedia announced that it was working on the Wikimedia Discover search engine, which was proposed as a resource to connect the Web’s open information.

In early iterations, Wikimedia said it would “be the Internet’s first transparent search engine, and the first one originated by the Wikimedia Foundation,” so there was some confusion about whether the organization planned to challenge Google or not. Wikimedia now says it has no intention to do that.

In particular, the company had applied for a $250,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, and many in the community felt that if a wider consultation had been conducted, the resources could have gone elsewhere.

This was just the most recent in a series of conflicts at the organization, including the board voting to remove a a community-elected trustee in December, followed by an editorial revolt in January that saw a newly-elected board member, and former Googler, step down after a vote of no confidence.

For her part, Tretikov had apologized for the lack of transparency on Wikimedia Discover – although she doesn’t cite the recent ordeal as a reason for her departure. In her announcement post, Tretikov recaps her efforts to reverse losses in Wikimedia’s editorial community, and states that she will assist in the search for her successor.

To what extent Wikimedia Discovery will live on in her absence remains to be seen.

Update: Here’s Wikimedia Foundation’s official statement on the resignation.

On Thursday, February 25, Lila Tretikov announced she will step down from her role as Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation.

“I am both inspired by, and proud of, the many great things we have all accomplished at the Foundation over the last two years, most significantly reversing the loss of our editorial community,” Lila wrote in her email to staff and community. “I would like to thank our Board of Trustees and Advisors, our Foundation staff, as well as the many outstanding community members for their support and encouragement on this journey. I remain passionate about the value and potential of open knowledge and Wikimedia to change the world.”

The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees is working to develop a transition plan that will include appointing interim leadership and initiating the search for a new Executive Director. Lila’s last day will be March 31, 2016.

Lila joined as Executive Director in May 2014 to support the maturation of the Wikimedia Foundation and focus the organization on the needs of its community and users. During this time, the organization has made real progress in these areas. The Foundation has improved organizational performance and product development, released new native apps, editor translation and content quality assessment tools. Many talented members of our staff and community contributed to these accomplishments, and we want to recognize their hard work and commitment to our mission.

“These changes are in motion and I move on with confidence that the Foundation can meet new challenges in a changing environment” said Lila, “I remain passionate about the value and potential of open knowledge to change the world and our ability to continue to lead this change.”

Since it started fifteen years ago, Wikipedia has grown into one of the world’s most important knowledge resources, thanks to the efforts of hundreds of thousands of volunteers around the world. The focus of the Wikimedia Foundation has always been to support that community and the Wikimedia projects, and to help make free knowledge available for the world.

“The Wikimedia’s vision is clear: a world in which every single person can share in the sum of all knowledge. Even as we go through changes, our focus remains on this vision,” said Patricio Lorente, Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees. “The Wikimedia Foundation has strong leadership and a talented staff devoted to this vision and our movement’s core values. They will continue to support the Wikimedia projects and community, and we are confident that we are well positioned to move forward at this time. We thank Lila for her service and wish her the best in her future endeavors.”

Lila will remain engaged with the Wikimedia Foundation to support the transition process.

Thank you for our time together. [Lila Tretikov | Wikimedia]

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