Parser 2011/The big picture

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MediaWiki as we know it had its basic architecture set in 2001-2002, based on the then-needs of Wikipedia migrating off of UseModWiki. This has locked in a number of assumptions which have been difficult to break out of.

What's changed?

State of the art on the interwebs
2001 2011
Mixed Latin-1, UTF-8 charsets UTF-8 everywhere
Light DHTML as progressive enhancement Pervasive AJAX: jQuery, APIs, mashups
View-edit-submit-review form sequences Live AJAX controls
Plain textarea input WYSIWIG word processing
Upload a .JPEG or .GIF from your computer Import files in many formats, manipulate them online
Mailing list and IRC with links to wiki pages Multiuser Etherpad with integrated chat
Admins expected to use low-level config files a lot Apps expected to auto-tune better, provide sensible interfaces for configuration
Only banks and e-commerce do SSL Mail and social networking use SSL for all logins, starting to default to SSL for everything.

We've also seen some interesting changes within our own community which can point us at some interesting directions:

  • Custom user and site JavaScript and styles and l10n messages have made a lot of customization and some local features possible that would never have gotten done by core developers. With the in-browser JavaScript+HTML+CSS environment only getting awesomer as browsers evolve, this is a key environment for feature expansion and creative content creation. Make it easier to create and share things; find ways to remove bottlenecks to sharing code between users and between sites, and making it safer to do so by devising restricted execution environments.


Major future-oriented projects should consider the core values of a wiki environment. What are some key properties of wiki, and what are current holes in that that we can fill in by modernizing?

Wiki is ... Social Integrate messaging, chat, multiuser editing, and mentor/colleague relationships into the platform.
Creative We need smarter editing tools to help with complex pages and templates, and to make images and drawings editable.
Interactive Go beyond static text+photos+video to animations, maps, interactive diagrams, calculators, educational games.
Extensible Support your power users: let them experiment with and share templates, user/site JS+CSS and gadgets safely.

See Also[edit]