Today, the Wikimedia Foundation launched a new prototype “visual editor” for Wikimedia. The visual editor is a new editing environment that won’t require everyone to learn our special markup language in order to contribute to our projects.
Right now, if you try to edit the English Wikipedia’s article about the Wikimedia Foundation, or the Latin Wiktionary’s entry for “futūrus” (about to be), you get a lot of confusing characters interspersed amongst the recognisable text. Though it’s possible to learn what these mean and use them powerfully, many of our editors, and especially new editors, want to contribute content, not learn technical formatting.
We identified the difficulty in learning wikitext as a key inhibitor to growing our editor community in the Wikimedia movement’s strategic plan. We want the process of learning how to edit to be trivial, so our volunteers, both new and experienced, can devote themselves to what they edit. That’s why we’re building the visual editor, so that contributing to a wiki is as easy and natural as other modern editing systems, and new editors are not dissuaded from making their changes.
You may remember a similar announcement in December 2011, when we revealed a developer prototype of our “visual editor,” but after a great deal of feedback, we’ve reworked it so that it’s more useful to our community of users.
We learned a lot from building our first prototype. It was great how many of you helped with feedback, bug reports and comments about how we were doing. In the months since then, based on your feedback and technical issues we encountered, we’ve overhauled the entire editor. We changed the technical design and how it works, rewriting its components so that we can better support more editors. We’ve also integrated it into the MediaWiki platform, so now it can load and edit wiki articles, and not just sit separately.
To build this iteration of our open-source visual editor, we have been working with some of the team from Wikia, a collaborative publisher that operates the largest network of video game, entertainment and lifestyle wikis in the world. We both believe that this kind of tool should be built not just for the Wikimedia wiki projects, but for everyone using MediaWiki software, and when it’s done we look forward to including the visual editor “out of the box” for anyone setting up a wiki with our software.
Thanks to all this, our new prototype is now live on mediawiki.org. This is just a demonstration, and very far from a finished product — for example, we haven’t yet added image or table handling. It’s currently locked down to only work on a self-contained area of the wiki, so that it doesn’t encounter any unsupported content or break anything else. We intend to work on small pieces of the overall story, releasing a new version every two weeks or so, and adding features one-by-one until the editor is good enough to deploy for everyone (and release in MediaWiki’s core).
Over the next few weeks and months, we will be working with the community — you — to find bugs, to focus on what our priorities should be, and most importantly, to make sure that what we’re building is right for you and that it supports your “workflow.”
So please, try out the prototype, see our frequently-asked questions and tell us what you think.
– The Visual Editor Team: Trevor Parscal, Inez Korczyński, James Forrester, Roan Kattouw, Rob Moen, Subramanya Sastry, Brion Vibber, Gabriel Wicke, Christian Williams.