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Wetpaint.com ends free ad-free wikis for education program

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Wikis in Education

It was fun while it lasted but as of August 11th Wetpaint.com will no longer be offering a free upgrade to ad-free status for educators. The news is as much a shock to me as it is to many of you. I was notified by the Director of Publishing at Wetpaint on August 4th about the change.

Since that time I’ve been communicating with Wetpaint about this decision and my future role as Educational Ambassador with them. Below is part of the e-mail I sent to them.

I thank you for extending the offer to allow me to stay on as
“Educational Ambassador” for educators. It means a lot to me that you
value my contributions to the Wetpaint team. I have appreciated the
opportunity to collaborate and provide educators and students with such
a great wiki platform. However, with the suspension of the ad-free
program indefinitely, I feel I can no longer be an advocate for using
Wetpaint as the premier educational wiki platform. I know that
educators who have already set up sites will continue to enjoy using
them with students, a large part of my role was helping those new to
the platform get their feet under them and answer questions as they
move forward. It’s hard for me to “sell” a program that will now cost a
teacher $19.95/month for ad-removal (especially for US schools that any
advertisements at all on a site is a deal breaker) when there are other
free programs out there for educators to use with students. Although
they might not be as good as Wetpaint, they are still free. I’m also
well known for being a proponent of open source software and for
finding the least expensive (free!) way to utilize technology in

So to that end I will no longer be the Educational Ambassador for Wetpaint at the end of August.

When I approached Wetpaint about the idea back in November of 2007, it was commissioned as a trial project. Now nearly two years later, the educational wikis on Wetpaint number around 160,000 sites with some 600,000 users. I can’t image what the financial cost is of running and supporting that many sites, and in these hard financial times. projects that cost money without making money of any sort are the first to go.

Wetpaint will still support the some 160,000 educational sites on it’s system and will allow those to run ad-free if they applied before August 11th for the Ad-Free status.

As sad as I am to see the program go, I can’t blame Wetpaint (or any Web 2.0 company for that matter) that allows educators to use their product without ads and for free. I can’t image trying to make money that way…Edublogs.org tried it for awhile but even they ended up putting ads on their blogs.

Education and educators are a tough crowd. We want our products free and without any limitations. How do you make money that way? Even if it’s just enough money to run the system.

I have nothing but gratitude for Wetpaint. Their support of me, the educational community, and students everywhere has been wonderful. Of course I’m sad to see the program go, but I hope the educational community will join me in thanking Wetpaint for their effort and support of the education of our children.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


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  6. Thanks for supporting teachers and taking this stance against ads on Wetpaint. Regretfully,one by one we are seeing the ‘free’ 2.0 sites fall by the wayside after teachers have been lured to use a particular resource.

    • Thanks Srenatee. I agree that at some point we’re going to have to pay for the services. In the mean time we’ll just keep innovating. 🙂

    • Bugger! I was just about to apply for educational ad free use for the student and community sites I have set up. Until recently I hadn’t mimded the ads – they were quite unobtrusive and often related to education. Sadly this seems to have suddenly changed with flashing pop-ups and fat stomachs calling for treatment.
      I guess I’ll go back to wikispaces.

  7. Gail Lovely Reply

    I think we need to be prepared to pay for things of great value to us… We can choose to pay with money or with time or with “eyeballs to ads”.

    If 160,000 free wikis each were to pay some amount (one time membership fee of $20 could generate more than $3 million ), so the revenue generated would be substantial… but $20 per month is a steep price for someting we are used to getting for free.

    Perhaps Wetpaint could have looked to their users for potential solutions…

    • Gail,

      I totally agree with you. At some point we do need to be willing to pay for some of these great programs. If not through ads then through some sort of membership. I too believe that Wetpaint might have been able to make some other arrangements with educators….the issue is they just don’t see themselves as a provider of educational sites/content. Even though 160,000 sites is a lot, it’s a drop in the bucket when you look at the 1.5 million or so sites they have. I can’t imagine how hard it is to make decisions that you know will effect a portion of your users.

  8. I agree with Gail – it would have made much more sense for the company to come to the community, through you ideally, present the problem and seek solutions. I bet we’d have come up with something. As it is, I am now an even more confirmed PBWorks user.

    • Ed, I too agree they should have at least given the community a shot at solving the issue. Not to say that they would have had to adopt it, but I think people would have appreciated being asked for help. Wetpaint has a community of 2800+ educators on their education wiki. It would have been interested to see what that community of users would have come up with.

  9. I am one of those teachers who just got hooked on Wetpaint and am sorry to hear of the change! I applaud you for you taking a stand.

    • Thanks Joe and I’m sorry that Wetpaint made this decision just as you were getting hooked on their wikis. The great news is that the ways wikis work is the same everywhere. So if you understand the hows and whats of a wiki finding a site becomes easy.

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  11. Thanks for this. I had no idea until this morning that they were switching policies. Had I known I would have signed up for two more sites–classes I routinely teach and now feel comfortable to take on-line. I really appreciate all the work you have put into the community. If you have suggestions for other ad-free wiki sites with comparable features, I would love the heads up. I am already familiar with pbwiki and wikispaces. Other possibilities would be great.

    • Hi Viv,

      Those two other sites are the only other two that I know of that are wikis that offer ad-free spaces for education. If I find anymore you know I’ll blog about it. 🙂

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  16. Jeff,

    I appreciate you taking a stand, but we have to be careful here…. these companies provide a service and at the same time make a profit (or in some cases break even), and the business model is delivering ad content for a price they have chosen to offset the expense of service for “free”…

    That being said, I read your post and then noticed that you had a few ads on this blog, as do I on mine. Are we not typing out of both sides of our mouth? I am not getting rich… heck I haven’t even seen a single dime come through the ads, but… the message is clear. Your reflections here have certainly made me think more about my blog design and content beyond what I type.


    • Andy,

      You make a good point. The ads on this site help to offset the cost of running the 6 websites that I run for education. Full Disclosure: I spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 a year in hosting and domain fees for the sites that I run. The ads make me about $100 a year so I’m still no covering my cost…but every bit helps.

      That being said my site was never built for students. I think that is the main difference. My site is for educators and if a class wanted to use my site and the only way they could use it was to take the ads off I would in an instant.

      I don’t blame Wetpaint for trying to make money….I know they have to. I wanted to work with a company to understand what the world looks like from their end…that also means making money, which in education is something we are never concerned with. The business worlds is a different world and I respect them for taking the change to make their sites completely free for student use. I understand that every company needs to make money. It was fun while it lasted and I do hope they are able to offer it again in the future.

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  19. Well some good things do come to an end… Too bad, WP was/is one of the most user friendly platforms with which to introduce the wiki medium to young and old… I’m just thankful that they are grandfathering in the many already established sites I’ve already built with students and teachers…

    It’s already been said, but had they been less myopic about factoring education into (or out of) their business plan the learning and teaching community could have helped sustain them in other ways, or they could have worked out a more creative solution like Photobucket has with their “TrialPay” –pro accounts free to the user agreement… Alas, as another commenter has posted, apparently at this stage they no longer see themselves as active players in online educational community…

    So let’s see what next thing wiki comes our way…

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