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In this tutorial, you will learn about the MediaWiki Action API, how to use it, request format, a simple query, and examples of projects using Action API.

What is the MediaWiki Action API?[edit]

API:Main page is a good starting point for understanding the API. MediaWiki Action API is a web service. The type is REST, which is a flexible and scalable protocol that typically uses HTTP requests.

Your program sends requests to the API to get access to wiki features. For example, log in to a wiki, create and edit a page, search for a title, search for content text, or parse content. The Action API is available for third-party developers, Wikimedia extension developers, and wiki site administrators.

On the right sidebar of this page, there are many features that are supported by the API, grouped by category. Before sending requests to a wiki server, first read through the overview pages such as data formats, errors and warnings, and the Action API FAQ. For a general overview of the API, see the API:Main page.

How to use it[edit]

You can request for data from client side to the server over HTTP and get the response back in a standard format (typically JSON). A request consists of an endpoint and a set of parameters. There are two types of request that can be made: GET and POST. For a GET request, a parameter would contain a query string in the URL. For a POST request, format the parameters in JSON format.  

Request format[edit]

All Wikimedia Wikis have endpoints in this format http://example.org/w/api.php. To operate on the MediaWiki main site or English Wikipedia, use the related endpoint. For example, the English Wikipedia is at https://en.wikipedia.org/w/api.php For testing new accounts or test edits to pages, use the test wiki endpoint https://test.wikipedia.org/w/api.php.

In the query string in the URL, add the action parameter. It tells the API which action to perform. The most popular action is query (the URL would contain action=query), which allows fetching data from a wiki. Following the action parameter, add another parameter to indicate which one of the three query module types you want to perform:

  • prop: get properties of pages  
  • list: get list of pages matching a certain criterion
  • meta: get meta information about the wiki and user

Finally, include the format parameter, which tells the API in which format to get the results. The recommended format is JSON. The API has supported other output formats in the past, but they are not generally recommended.

Request format
Request format

A simple query[edit]

Let’s take an example of a simple query to understand what a typical GET request and response would look like in the context of the Action API.

Let's search for a title in a wiki. We will use the search module documented on API:Search.

GET request[edit]

To search for page titles or content matching Craig Noone, the URL for the HTTP GET request would be:

Explanation of each part of the URL:

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/w/api.php is the main endpoint. In this case it is English Wikipedia.
  • action=query means fetch data from wiki.
  • list=search means get list of pages matching a criteria.
  • srsearch=Craig%20Noone indicates the page title or content to search for. The %20 indicates a space character in a URL.
  • format=json indicates JSON output, which is the recommended output format.


The response is a JSON format document with a list of pages titles that match Craig Noone :

    "batchcomplete": "",
    "continue": {
        "sroffset": 10,
        "continue": "-||"
    "query": {
        "searchinfo": {
            "totalhits": 210
        "search": [
                "ns": 0,
                "title": "Craig Noone",
                "pageid": 18846922,
                "size": 22548,
                "wordcount": 1771,
                "snippet": "<span class=\"searchmatch\">Craig</span> Stephen <span class=\"searchmatch\">Noone</span> (born 17 November 1987) is an English professional footballer who plays as a winger for Bolton Wanderers. Born in Kirkby, he has also",
                "timestamp": "2018-11-02T22:25:45Z"
                "ns": 0,
                "title": "Noone",
                "pageid": 32906333,
                "size": 553,
                "wordcount": 64,
                "snippet": "<span class=\"searchmatch\">Noone</span> is a surname that may refer to:  <span class=\"searchmatch\">Craig</span> <span class=\"searchmatch\">Noone</span> (born 1987), English football midfielder Jimmie <span class=\"searchmatch\">Noone</span> (1895–1944), American jazz clarinetist Kathleen",
                "timestamp": "2015-08-16T05:16:17Z"

Examples of projects using Action API[edit]

Some example of projects in Wikimedia that use Action API:

  • Wikipedia iOS App, in which one of the features is to search for wiki pages near your location.
  • Bots that operate on a wiki. Pywikibot is a bot framework written in Python that interfaces with MediaWiki API which a lot of bot developers use.
  • API use in visualizing data obtained from a wiki. Such as this neat visualization that shows real time edits made on Wikipedia.

Additional notes[edit]

  • Several sites are using MediaWiki. They might all be running a different version of MediaWiki and in turn the API. Some module parameters supported in one version might be deprecated or removed in others. You could learn about that in each module's documentation via API help module.
  • If you want to make a lot of API calls, and perhaps run very busy and active bots, talk to wiki admins ahead of time, so they do not block you. See list of Administrators of Wikimedia projects. Read more about this topic on API:Etiquette.
  • All data modifying actions such as logging, editing or moving a page, and watching or patrolling changes would require tokens. You would need to obtain tokens via API:Tokens to proceed further.