Wikipedia:Main Page featured article protection/re-write
Wikipedia's Main Page featured article is one of the most visible and heavily edited on the site. For this reason, it receives a lot of vandal edits from unregistered users visiting Wikipedia. Consequently, it is and has been suggested many times that the featured article should be semi-protected. Full protection of the page is generally prohibited. Administrators only semi-protect the page as a response to extreme levels of vandalism. The length of protection is as short as the situation reasonably permits. Possible circumstances under which administrators consider semi-protection appropriate are given below.
Full protection prevents anyone without administrative powers from editing an article. This is almost never used on the day's featured article, and is only used in rare situations where semi-protection is ineffective.
Semi-protection prevents all unregistered or recently registered users from editing a page. The Main Page featured article is rarely semi-protected. However, it is recognised that there are some extreme circumstances when semi-protection can be introduced for a limited amount of time. These are, for example, when a range of dynamic IP addresses are being used to vandalise the featured article page in quick succession; where personal information or potentially distressing content is being repeatedly placed onto the article; or where a few minutes of protection are needed to remove harmful vandalism from a page.
Admins may prefer to try other methods of dealing with vandalism first, such as blocking problematic accounts and IPs.
Templates included in the Main Page FA are sometimes vandalized, and it is more difficult to find the source of this kind of vandalism quickly. It is also less likely that casual readers would need to modify the templates. Admins semi/full-protect the templates as needed.
To qualify for featured article status, the day's featured article will be at a stable and agreed-upon title. Therefore, admins protect the article from being moved, before it is posted on the Main Page. For housekeeping and process reasons, this protection is lifted at the end of an article's stay on the front page.
Requesting and notification
Other front page articles
These are covered under the semi-protection policy. Although they can be semi-protected, admins are generally more cautious in applying protection to these pages. To qualify for semi-protection, articles linked via the front page should be experiencing a higher frequency of vandalism than other articles.
Note that none of these guidelines apply to the Main Page itself, which is always protected "as a result of repeated vandalism of the Main Page and [because it] keeps our welcome mat clean."
Considerations of the current practice
Views regarding Main Page featured article protection form a continuum from protecting only in extreme cases to automatic semi-protection. A small minority have even argued for full protection. Arguments from all parties are presented below.
- A featured article should "exemplify our very best work." This is not the impression a reader gets seeing a vandalized article.
- An article that has reached featured status should need minimal further editing.
- The featured article of the day attracts far more vandals than other articles, and the proportion of vandal edits is also much higher. The Main Page is however widely watchlisted and it takes an average response time of only 1 minute 25 seconds to repair each vandal edit. Some vandalism can also be reverted by automated bots. Nonetheless, with around 90 vandal edits a day, FAs are typically vandalized for over two hours during their stay on the Main Page, thus roughly one in eleven readers view a vandalized page, which is again significantly more than normal. Major damage can even go uncorrected for days.
- Many editors spend the whole day struggling to keep on top of vandalism. This time could be spent working on other articles.
- Having to fight vandals subjects the article's editors to harassment and degrades their work. Some feel not protecting is insulting and fails to consider the welfare of the people behind the article.
- New and anonymous users come to the talk page every few days to register their complaints and dismay that the FA is being vandalized and request protection. When it is protected, no good faith new or anonymous users request unprotection, countering the idea that users would prefer a page they can edit to a page that isn't vandalized.
- Protection is applied or registration required in many other instances. Much of the logic that applies to Main Page FA protection also applies to the Main Page, which despite bearing the slogan anyone can edit at the top is always fully protected. Uploading an image to Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons requires a login, while replacing a Main Page featured article seen by children with a disturbing image does not. In addition, certain mainspace articles are protected for very extended periods (e.g. George W. Bush).
- Unprotected articles may come out worse off for their time on the Main Page. There is no evidence that semi-protecting the articles will prevent significant improvement.
- Semi-protecting may encourage potential editors to sign up, creating a more honest and responsible environment, as well as other benefits (see Wikipedia:Why create an account?).
- TFA is not a sandbox.
- A featured article should represent Wikipedia's unique qualities on the Internet. This includes being editable by anyone. 'Ability of anyone to edit articles without registering' is the number two foundation issue behind NPOV and is also part of Wikipedia's Five pillars.
- Protection is distrusting of new and anonymous editors, and goes against the spirit of assuming good faith, a fundamental principle.
- Visitors often tend to look at our most visible articles, and having those articles editable helps attract more editors to the article and to the project. The Main Page featured article may drive new account creation. New editors may be more likely to engage the encyclopedia in general by starting an account, when they realize the open-editing character of Wikipedia. Edits to TFA may also be a highlight of a new user's early experience and encourage them to make further contributions.
- According to the protection policy, protection is not to be used "as a preemptive measure against vandalism before any vandalism has occurred." To protect Today's Featured Article as a matter of course would clearly contradict this.
- Some featured articles may be improved by their time on the Main Page. Anonymous editors, like others, are capable of making worthwhile additions to articles. Protecting the featured articles might postpone or even prevent these improvements.
- For some thoughts on what level of vandalism qualifies for semi-protection, and other considerations, see Wikipedia:Rough guide to semi-protection
- See Wikipedia:Main Page FAQ#Why am I not able to edit the Main Page?
- See Wikipedia:Featured article criteria
- On average a page is edited once every 23 days, and one in twenty edits is a vandal edit. (See Wikipedia:WikiProject Vandalism studies/Study1). Hence, on average an article is vandalised once every 460 days. On average the MPFA is vandalised 90 times during the day (December MPFA analysis), which is 41 400 times more than the average article.
- The average percentage of vandal edits on the MPFA is 34.4% (December MPFA analysis), compared to 5% for the average article (WikiProject Vandalism Study 1).
- For detailed data see Wikipedia talk:Don't protect Main Page featured articles/December Main Page FA analysis - a study on the nature of edits while on the Main Page.
- Bots are ineffective against subtle changes however, and can even revert to damaged versions: Reversion by User:MartinBot to a severely damaged version of Basiliscus: Today's featured article on 1 June 2007
- See also Wikipedia talk:Main Page featured article protection#some analysis, Wikipedia talk:Main Page featured article protection#December 1-7 analysis and Wikipedia talk:Main Page featured article protection#Time taken to correct vandalism
- El Greco: Today's featured article on 19 January 2007. The deletion of the entire biography section by an IP went uncorrected for 2.5 days (correcting diff).
- See, for example, these two requests:  at Talk:Excel Saga: Today's featured article on 4 June2007, and this request at Talk:Battle of Midway: Today's featured article on 7 June 2007. Other comments made by anonymous editors on the talk page of articles featured on the Main Page in the first 10 days of June 2007 can be viewed here: 
- Before and after comparison of Simeon I of Bulgaria: Today's featured article on 27 May 2007. There are three errors introduced by vandals: "predecessor =[[Boris II of Bulgaria|Boris I]]", "In 817" (should be 917), and "they was resting".
- Wikipedia's slogan describes it as 'the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit'.
- A typical example: ChrisWallis on Jupiter. Here is a good-faith anon addition from someone who later started an account Exiled from GROGGS
- Before and after comparison of Diplodocus: Today's featured article on 26 May 2007.
- There were 4 beneficial edits out of 59 total edits by new users and IPs on the article Diplodocus during its stay on the Main Page: