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Manual:What is MediaWiki?

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MediaWiki is a free server-based wiki software, licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). It's designed to serve a website that gets millions of hits per day.

You probably know Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. MediaWiki is the software on which Wikipedia is built.

The words "wiki", "Wikimedia", and "MediaWiki" have caused some confusion.

To learn more about these words, read "Differences between Wikipedia, Wikimedia, MediaWiki, and wiki " where this is explained.

General overview

MediaWiki is an extremely powerful, scalable software and a feature-rich wiki implementation that uses PHP to process and display data stored in a database, such as MySQL.

Pages use MediaWiki's wikitext format, so that users without knowledge of HTML or CSS can edit them easily.

When a user submits an edit to a page, MediaWiki writes it to the database, but without deleting the previous versions of the page, thus allowing easy reverts in case of vandalism or spamming. MediaWiki can manage image and multimedia files, too, which are stored in the file system. For large wikis with lots of users, MediaWiki supports caching and can be easily coupled with proxy server software. With dedicated extensions, MediaWiki can also handle structured data.

What MediaWiki is...

MediaWiki is wiki software.
If you don't know what a wiki is, then please read this Wikipedia article before going any further!
MediaWiki is server software.
As with any software that you expose to the internet, there may be bugs or security problems. Do not install MediaWiki unless you intend to keep up with security upgrades (please subscribe to receive announcements of security updates).
MediaWiki is geared towards the needs of the Wikimedia projects.
The program was primarily developed to run on a large server farm for Wikipedia and its sister projects. Features, performance, configurability, ease-of-use, etc are often designed in this light; if your needs are radically different the software might not be appropriate for you.
MediaWiki is free software.
No guarantee or warranty of any kind is provided.

Try out Wikitext

Basic wikitext (wiki markup)

Yes, you can easily modify pages, and you can (temporarily) publish dummy sentences, and you can even (temporarily) completely destroy a page in a wiki. You don't need to have any programming skills to do this.

We suggest you exercise yourself within our sandbox. Please isolate your testing there, though: the admins might not take too kindly to your mischief otherwise.

You can also look up the cheat sheet, which contains basic formatting commands.

Some things MediaWiki doesn't do so well...

  • Because MediaWiki was designed for open content, it is often not suitable for situations where you want to restrict access to part of the wiki. It can host a wiki on an organization's internal network, where only insiders see it.
  • MediaWiki has been designed to serve very high-traffic websites such as Wikipedia. It has been optimized for this use and may not be suitable for smaller sites, where disk space or memory are bigger restrictions than bandwidth.
  • MediaWiki is not normally a suitable replacement for dedicated forum/blogging software if that is what you are after.

In the above cases, there may be other wiki software (or non-wiki software) better suited to your needs.

See also