Requests for comment/MediaWiki Foundation
What deficiency is there in MediaWiki only being a Wikimedia Foundation project? 
MediaWiki was originally developed for Wikipedia, and is in use on all Wikimedia projects, but it has become a software product in its own right, used in wiki farms, like Wikia; corporate or governmental knowledge bases, which are often hidden from the public; independent hobbyist sites; and personal wikis used by a single person.
The Wikimedia Foundation is an organization dedicated to the open creation and distribution of knowledge.
Donations made to the Wikimedia Foundation are made with that goal in mind and it would be irresponsible of the foundation to use significant portions of that money to further the development of large MediaWiki development projects that do not serve the Wikimedia Foundation's goals.
Development on MediaWiki is done by:
- Wikimedia Foundation employees and contractors on projects directly and indirectly beneficial to the WMF.
- Employees of third-party organizations on projects of use to the organization.
- Volunteers who develop in their spare time outside of work, school, and other commitments.
Unfortunately, this means there are few developers contributing to MediaWiki whose ability to take on large MediaWiki development projects is not either biased towards what is in their employer's interests or restricted in how much time can be spent on those projects.
What would the goal of a MediaWiki Foundation be? 
The goal of a MediaWiki Foundation would not be to replace the Wikimedia Foundation in anything related to MediaWiki. Instead the MediaWiki Foundation would take over things the WMF believes are outside of the scope of its goals. The MediaWiki Foundation would seek to improve areas related to third-party use of MediaWiki that have not received attention from the WMF.
What would be solved or improved by having a MediaWiki Foundation? 
- In another RFC moving release management outside of the Wikimedia Foundation is being discussed. Having a foundation dedicated specifically to MediaWiki and its non-WMF uses would help ensure there is someone working full time who is capable of doing tarball releases of MediaWiki. As opposed to tarball releases being subject to how much spare time a volunteer has.
- There are many large feature ideas lying around. Many of these would be useful to MediaWiki installations outside of the WMF. However, due to their size they do not get attention from volunteers with little spare time, or WMF employees who similarly have little 20% time and are not tasked with these projects due to not being important to WMF's core mission, and 3rd party companies who cannot justify writing a large, abstract, and generic backend MediaWiki feature when they could just put together a small ugly hack that suits their specific purposes. The MediaWiki Foundation could take on these projects and contract or employ developers to ensure their completion.
How would the MediaWiki Foundation choose/prioritize what projects to work on? 
There is a near-infinite number of things to develop for MediaWiki. We have over 1.5k open bugs in the MediaWiki component alone, plenty of open RFC pages, and many of our community members have even more ideas for things to add to in MediaWiki. How would the foundation decide what the developers it hires should work on?
Idea #1: Anarchy 
It's not a very conventional, organized, or – from an outside perspective – purposeful way to organize projects for the developers. But it is necessary to understand that we have volunteers who pick out things they see as missing from MediaWiki in their own spare time (10% or 20% of their programming time) and work towards fixing that hole. For some of these people if we simply hire them and let them choose projects themselves they will continue fixing the many things in MediaWiki we are missing. But this time using all of their programming time for MediaWiki development. And now knowing that they have the resources and time to work on large features they would not have tried to start writing before.
From the foundation's goal of boosting MediaWiki development. Especially in large areas that don't get touched now. This would already be a big aid to the goal. Many of these volunteers we may hire will leap right into some of the big projects that are overdue without any pushing from the foundation. And even the small bugs they may pick up will still be in favour of the foundation's goal.
Idea #2: Community / donor driven prioritizing 
Idea #1: MediaWiki Department 
Make a fully-funded and staffed MediaWiki specific department within the WMF Engineering Department. Setup a MW specific fund to collect donations, perhaps with WMF matching or supplementing these donations. Priorities would be set by a volunteer advisory board (similar to the funds dissemination committee) while HR supervision and release management would remain under WMF. Rather than focusing on WMF project specific areas of MediaWiki, this department would focus on broader MW needs, such as installer or extensions of greater value to third-party wikis than WMF projects.