Community Central
Community Central
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MediaWiki is the wiki editing software that powers Fandom.

It’s hard to believe it’s already November. I don’t know about you, but it feels like this year has just flown by. Here at Fandom, there’s still a lot we’re working on for wiki editors this year—finishing mobile theming work, adding additional Discussions moderation tools, and improving the mobile editing experience being the primary areas of focus—but we’ve already heard some questions about what we’re going to be working on in 2023 so we wanted to let you know about one particularly important thing that will happen throughout the start of the year.

In early 2023, Fandom will be upgrading from MediaWiki 1.37 to MediaWiki 1.39. This continues our commitment to keep MediaWiki, the software that powers Fandom, up to date on a regular basis. This will be our second upgrade (following the jump from 1.33 to 1.37 earlier this year) since the launch of the Unified Community Platform (UCP) in 2020.

Some of you may be newer and not totally familiar with what a MediaWiki upgrade is, so let’s walk through some of what it means.

What is a MediaWiki upgrade?[]

MediaWiki is the software that powers wiki editing on Fandom. It’s also the same software used by Wikipedia, and its maintained by the Wikimedia Foundation (the parent organization of Wikipedia). Upgrading to a new version of MediaWiki is like how you have to upgrade the operating system on your phone. Every once in a while, your phone asks you to download and install software updates that bring (hopefully) improvements to your phone, security updates, and more. Same thing goes for MediaWiki upgrades. This is our version of that.

An upgrade of only two versions (1.37 to 1.39) is pretty straightforward. The amount of effort required by admins and editors to make sure their wiki worked well with 1.37 was pretty minimal, especially compared to UCP—which was a jump of fourteen versions all at once for historically Fandom wikis! That’s a massive undertaking (for historically Gamepedia wikis it was much easier, as they were far more up to date on MediaWiki). We expect the upgrade to 1.39 to be similar to the 1.37 upgrade earlier this year.

It's also important to note what a MediaWiki upgrade is not. Specifically, this is not a site redesign. This is a change to the underlying software that we use, not how the site looks.

What are the benefits of upgrading?[]

Like any other software update, upgrading MediaWiki on Fandom ensures that we are using stable and modern tools for wiki editing. Each new version of MediaWiki comes with some incremental changes that, in and of themselves, are pretty minor. But the longer you go without upgrading MediaWiki—like the eight year gap between Fandom’s upgrade to MediaWiki 1.19 and the UCP on MediaWiki 1.33—the more those changes add up and it feels like a drastic jump with a lot of changes. That was a jarring experience for a lot of users back in 2020, and something we want to avoid happening again.

Fortunately, the upgrade to MediaWiki 1.37 was a largely positive experience for the community (who didn’t have to make major changes on their wikis) and that’s an experience we’re confident we can repeat and even improve upon based on our learnings from the MediaWiki 1.37 upgrade.

What’s the timeline for the upgrade?[]

We’ve already scoped out the work and the development time and resources it will take to upgrade to MediaWiki 1.39. Next, our Platform team is going to start backend work in mid-November, so we’ll be rolling pretty soon on the beginnings of this project. After that, when we do our typical annual code freeze before the holidays in December, that will be the final code release onto MediaWiki 1.37 other than urgent fixes. As wikis begin migrating to 1.39 in the first few months of 2023, the code will be “unfrozen” and migrated wikis will begin to use 1.39 and any additional code we may have released to 1.39 during the freeze.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Just so there’s no confusion, a code freeze does not mean that your wikis can’t be edited. The code freeze is purely on the Fandom side and is about Fandom code that we add to the platform. You will be able to use your wikis as normal before and after they’re migrated to 1.39.

We’ll follow up with some more specific timelines in the next few months. Since work is only just about to start, we don’t want to commit to exact dates just yet but will provide a timeline once we’re confident in the dates that we set forward. Even a number of the dates on our own internal upgrade plan say “TBD” right now!

MediaWiki 1.39 is currently in the beta stage in the Wikimedia Foundation, and the stable release is expected to be released in the next few weeks. We’re starting the work before having the final version ready because we want to bring you the most up-to-date version as soon as possible, and it will reflect the final stable release.

Additional Tools in Early 2023[]

The MediaWiki upgrade is going to take up the vast majority of development time for our Platform and CATS (Creators Admins Tools Staff) teams, so additional product development for wiki editors will be more minimal in the first quarter of the year. However, we are in the process of identifying some easier fixes and improvements that we can make that don’t require much development time.

We’re still in the process of creating our 2023 roadmap and going through annual planning, so we’re not ready to say everything we’ll be able to do in the first quarter of the year yet, but there are a couple of things we can say:

  • Mobile CSS. Admins are now able to apply their wiki’s desktop theme to the mobile skin via Theme Designer, thanks to last week’s release which you can read about here, but we know that many admins also want to take that a step forward. To that end, we are currently putting together a plan for enabling Mobile CSS access for admins early in the new year. First, we’re going to run some tests to make sure Mobile CSS doesn’t cause any mobile performance or SEO issues. We don’t think it will, but better safe than sorry. Assuming that test is successful, our next step will be to decide what can be edited with Mobile CSS, and that guidance will be added to the Customization Policy. Once that’s done, our intention is to enable Mobile CSS.
  • Extension Review. We promised back in May, at Community Connect, that we would be launching a process called Extension Review as a carryover from Gamepedia. This will allow editors to nominate and help choose new MediaWiki extensions that can be added to the platform. We will be launching the first review period over the next few weeks, with the expectation that at least one new extension will be enabled during the same time as the MediaWiki upgrade.

There may be more as well, and we’ll keep you posted on what those items might be once we have more clarity on the official product roadmap for early 2023.

We’ll also keep you posted as we have more details on the status of the MediaWiki upgrade, and be on the lookout for the launch of Extension Review soon. In the meantime, feel free to let us know if you have any questions in the comments!

Fandom Staff
Hey I'm Brandon, VP of Community at Fandom.
I'm a huge fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Marvel.
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