MediaWiki 1.5

New version of wiki engine released for testing

MediaWiki 1.5 alpha goes live

The latest upgrade to the MediaWiki software which is the backbone of Wikipedia and all other Wikimedia foundation projects is now well advanced, with an alpha version of MediaWiki 1.5 now available for download for testing purposes. The new software is running on a test wiki at http://test.leuksman.com/, and the release of a stable version is scheduled for 1 June 2005.

MediaWiki is a wiki engine which was written specifically for Wikipedia, and has developed since its early days into one of the most fully-featured and widely used wiki engines available. In Wikipedia's earliest days, the site used UseModWiki, but in early 2002, Magnus Manske finished work on a PHP-based replacement which eliminated support for CamelCase links, among many other improvements. Manske's software became known as 'Phase II', and was supplanted later by 'Phase III', which became known as MediaWiki in response to the need for a more standard version numbering system, and the software's use across all Wikimedia projects.

New features

MediaWiki 1.4 has been in use on Wikipedia since 20 March 2005, but current lead developer Brion Vibber has been spearheading work to incorporate further features which have been requested since then. Major updates include a revised schema for the database, which should significantly speed up rename and delete operations on pages with long edit histories. The schema change is likely to lead to some downtime for large wikis such as Wikipedia when they upgrade to the new software.

One feature that has been commonly requested is a fixed ID for the most recent revision of a page. Currently, links to old versions of a page take the form http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Open_cluster&oldid=13445382, with the most recent revision always having oldid=0. This means that one can only link permanently to old revisions of an article. MediaWiki 1.5 will assign a permanent oldid to the current revision of an article, which will assist in any sifting which may take place as Wikipedians work towards offline editions.

Another feature which has been in some demand recently, thanks to the efforts of User:Willy on Wheels and User:Wikipedia is Communism page-move vandals, is a record of page moves in Special:Log, and a 'rollback' function for page moves, available to administrators. Page moves will also appear in article revision histories.

General improvements to editing capabilities include the availability of a 'diff' for edit previews, to allow users to keep track of their changes during large edits; automatic conversion of '--' to an M-dash (—) or N-dash (–), depending on the context; and the ability to specify a file name for uploads distinct from the original filename on the user's hard drive.

Looking further forward

Some features which have been requested are likely to find their way into future releases of MediaWiki. One which has been talked about for some time is a page-ranking feature, where users can indicate how accurate and complete they have found an article. Magnus Manske has developed a page validation feature, and developers hope to incorporate it into a putative MediaWiki 1.6 release later this year. The push towards Wikipedia 1.0 will greatly benefit from this feature, which would allow sifters to rapidly gather together all articles rated above a certain threshold.

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