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The PHP, SQL-based WikiEngine used by WikiPedia and other sites. Prior to that WikiPedia used UseMod. Since the WikiPedia is getting so much attention, it is becoming more popular as well.

http://meta.wikipedia.org/wiki/MediaWiki

The companion wiki to NealStephenson's latest book uses the Mediawiki engine.

Why not UseMod?

Wikipedia has actually moved to PHP. Can anyone summarize the reasons behind the switch? It looks a lot slower (and buggier) than the old usemodwiki script. -- UseMod:ElMoro

Sure. Basically, the reasoning was we wanted to move over to an SQL-based system, and we wanted software that was designed from the ground up as encyclopedia-building software, rather than trying to patch and modify more general purpose wiki software. -- StephenGilbert

The new PHP-based software had several problems when it was first deployed, but most of the bugs were quickly fixed.


MediaWiki is primarily developed for WikimediaFoundation projects, and not much effort has been put into making it ready for general use. One major developer, BrionVibber, recommends that people should look to more general wiki engines to power their wikis. On the other hand, another major developer, ErikMoeller, thinks it's the coolest wiki engine going.

Of course, Erik was one of the most vocal advocates against wikis until he found WikiPedia, and now he's one of the most vocal advocates for them (proviso they look exactly like WikiPedia). He's definitely an extreme character! -- SunirShah, who actually went to Berlin to meet him, so he can say this as a friend

Actually, my opinion on wikis hasn't changed much, and I would hardly refer to myself "one of the most vocal advocates against wikis" at any given time. In fact, the early 2001 discussion we had on wikis on P2PJ resulted from my suggestion to create a closed wiki for P2PJ (although today I realize that it is arguable that this is a contradiction in terms). My early antipathy towards CamelCase has developed into a fanatic obsession which is kept in check by ignoring most wikis which use it ;-). In all fairness, MeAtBaLlWiKi? does a reasonably good job at keeping things in a state that is not completely UgLy. But I still think CamelCase is the worst design decision in the history of wikis.

I don't think every wiki should look like WikiPedia other than that every wiki should use some form of free links. InfoanarchyWiki? is based on UseMod, for example, and I think that was a good choice. My views have changed somewhat on the principle of openness -- I have learned that the openness of wikis actually works if you have a clear set of rules and guidelines as the 'pedia does. I'm not a big fan of ThreadMode and prefer discussion/content separation, but whether that is done in the form of subpages or of namespaces is a design decision.

While I'm a huge fan of WikiPedia, there are some other wikis which I occasionally use, including LinuxWiki, which uses CamelCase (MoinMoin is still a very nice engine). -- ErikMoeller

Yes, but more to the point: is "ErikMoeller thinks [MediaWiki] is the coolest wiki engine going" a fair characterization, or an exaggeration on my part? I have to ask Brion, too... -- StephenGilbert

I think it's definitely one of the best, but also harder to set up than most, so if you just want a quick, small wiki, UseModWiki with free links enabled seems like the best choice. Whatever you do, just don't use a wiki with CamelCase.--Erik

I don't generally recommend MediaWiki because it's very much a work in progress. There's still a lot of hard-coding for WikiPedia which you have to rip out for custom use (making updates harder since you now have to merge your code), and setup/maintenance code has tended to drift out of date or never have existed. Unless you're willing to put up with that -- or better yet to join the crew and help fix this stuff up -- the newbie wiki operator will probably be happier with a more mature and generalized package. UseModWiki is easy to set up and easy to use, and if you simply must have your MediaWiki you can upgrade later, importing the page database. -- BrionVibber

Update December 2003:
The install process still sucks, but it's getting easier to fix things up for custom use. -- BrionVibber

Update March 2004:
1.2 has a new, friendlier installer, and works out of the box with more common PHP configurations. It's not too bad now. -- BrionVibber

As a counter-argument, I've set up MediaWiki for WikiTravel, and although it's non-trivial it's not really rocket science. I found the features of MediaWiki particularly oriented towards collaborative editing of reference material, which is just what we wanted. Then again, it's not like I've tried 10,000 other types of Wiki software. -- EvanProdromou

December 2004:
I just set up wikimedia on a server for the first time. I think it took less then 3 minutes (I already had mysql and php installed). It was easy, and I highly recommend using it. - RobKohr (wiki I set up: http://www.webisodes.org)

October 2005:
I should probably mention that DeiLudum? uses MediaWiki as well. My first installation was an absolute breeze, and I had no issues with customisation (once I found out how to on the online documentation, anyway). I recently upgraded in November and had slight issues, but it was still easy enough for me, a non-technical person, to dig my way out of it (and I suspect that had I actually read the instructions properly I wouldn't have had such a hard time with it. I am, however, still waiting for someone to come up with some nice-looking and simple to peruse Help files, however, as the ones on Meta leave a little to be desired. -- LeeDavisThalbourne

This is the official MediaWiki logo:


CategoryWikiEngine CategoryWikiTechnology CategoryWikipedia

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