New skins system

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As of September 2012, MediaWiki isn't a great place for skins:

  • we have a few 'official' skins released in the tarballs, but don't really have the resources to support many of them, and have no real process for adding (or removing) skins from this state;
  • installing a new skin, like a new extension, requires filesystem access, which excludes / unnecessarily makes life harder for some of our re-users; and
  • contributing a new skin is essentially impossible except for those of us in the ivory tower of the Wikimedia Foundation.

This means that almost every MediaWiki install out there looks a lot like Wikimedia sites.

Skin installation magic[edit]

In the magic future, it would be nice for MediaWiki to have a proper skins system — that is, something more like WordPress or Drupal, where system administrators can browse and select skins through the interface and trigger a click-to-download-and-install process.

Obvious issues[edit]

  • Who's going to write this?
  • Is this just going to expand the confusion?

Technical issues[edit]

  • If we have a magic centralised gallery of skins, where will this be hosted? How will we run that? Magically within mediawiki.org somehow? etc.
    • Some of the User:Dantman/Skinning system plans include metadata that could be used for this. Otherwise the issue of installable skins is mostly the same issue as installable extensions and would be best solved with a number of the fundamentals being shared with extension installation.
  • Some of our existing 'official' skins have very deep integration or shared/semi-shared code - how would this work? Would we need to re-work them all to
  • Making this easy whilst the rest of LocalSettings.php isn't adjustable through the wiki would confuse some sysadmins; are we prioritising the right things to simplify?
    Extension:Configure attempts to implement the on-wiki editing of nearly all configuration settings. It might be worth looking at.

MediaWiki tarball skin review[edit]

We should review which skins are packaged by default in the tarball. What would be most useful for our tarball consumers? Do they all actually want to look like Wikipedia anyway? How do we know what they want? Is posting to mediawiki-l enough?

Wikimedia cluster skin review[edit]

We should review which skins are available on the WMF sites (if WMF doesn't have the resources to support a skin and no-one offers to keep it current, we can't keep it on the site breaking things). To understand what we want from where, we need to get some data (proposed query):

  • Aggregated from all WMF-hosted public wikis;
  • ... grouped by bucket of user {sysops; users with 100+ edits; users with 1,000+ edits; users with 10,000+ edits };
  • ... filtered by being active (account touched?) in the past {1, 3, and 12 months};

Also, it's been proposed to support lovers of the particularly-archaïc wiki skins to translate these into user-space CSS and JS hacks to run on top of a supported skin (maybe Vector?) - how plausible is this? How much does the software behaviour change between different skins? Does SkinLegacy.php do that much for people?

See also[edit]