Talk page permalinks: don’t lose your threads

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Our wikis’ talk pages are unique compared to other user experiences on the Internet. 

Their first characteristic is that anyone can edit them, add a new comment, fix a problem, or move content to structure it or archive it. 

Communities have a lot of conversations, like on Vietnamese Wikipedia. They are archived in many different ways depending on the wiki.

Archiving is done in many different ways. Some users rename their talk page, and some others move topics between pages. The same applies to the different community boards, where volunteer editors gather. And of course, the language has to be taken into consideration: English Wikipedia would label their archive page “/Archive 1“, but Spanish uses “/Archivo 1“, and so on, for more than 300 languages.

We also have the case of users who edit Wikipedia at a different pace. Very active users will see dozens of conversations daily, while less active users will only edit over the weekend or during their vacation time.

Notifications are sent to our users, on wiki and off wiki. They can provide a link to a mention, or a given section of the talk page. But if the targeted message on a wiki is moved elsewhere, then the mention or the comment is lost. This is particularly problematic for newcomers or users who don’t return to the wiki before the comment is moved to an archive page. 

Add to this more than 300 languages to be covered, with their specificities regarding the scripts used, and you have a good perspective of the situation. 

With all these cases, it is challenging to provide a discussion system that fits all cases, in particular with regards to finding a specific message. 

The introduction of Discussion Tools added the long-requested ability to reply in a conversation with a visual editing interface while maintaining the ability to edit the whole page in wikitext mode. It also added talk pages permalinks.

Introducing talk page permalinks

Starting January 29, 2024, permalinks are available at all wikis. This new feature, built by the Editing team, generates a link that remains attached to the comment, no matter if users (and bots) move that comment anywhere else. 

All users will notice this change on each message’s timestamp: they are now clickable links. This is the permalink to this comment. Just click or tap on it to copy it, and you can reuse it anywhere to link or quote the message. 

What changes?

What looks like a small change is a huge move. It is not just about adding links: the biggest part of the change was to build a database, listing each comment individually. 

Each new comment is identified compared to the comment they respond to, using the author of the new message and its timestamp, and the user they respond to at its timestamp. The most common format is: c-<username1>-<timestamp1>-<username2>-<timestamp2>

New topics are identified by their author, timestamp, and the new topic title: c-<username>-<timestamp>-<topic title>

The URL is now a unique identifier, and the location of the comment doesn’t matter anymore. It applies to either new topics or their responses. 

If a comment is moved elsewhere, a missing comment notification is shown to the user, with a link to the right location, no matter if the link goes to the discussion section or a specific comment. The same applies to entire sections. 

In addition, all existing section links to topics in the format #<topic title> will also trigger this message if the topic can be found in the archives!

Want to try discussions permalinks? Start now! These improvements are already available on both Desktop and Web Mobile environments.

At the date of this post, this feature is available on all wikis but English Wikipedia. We hope to provide it soon there.

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