There used to be a time that Wikipedia was always running the latest and greatest version of the MediaWiki software. In the last year however, this proved to be unmanageable and Wikipedia switched to a stable version, plus those fixes that are required to keep the websites running and of course the new work of the Usability project. For the past few months Tim Starling has been working hard to review all the latest code from MediaWiki, in order to release MediaWiki 1.16 and to deploy this for all the WikiMedia projects. Last week Tim announced that he had created a 1.16 branch. That basically means that Tim has almost caught up, and that no new features that are developed at this point will make it into the next version of the software. Only bugfixes will be allowed from now on. The new version of MediaWiki should be deployed in the next few weeks. (Wikitech-l mailing list announcement)
The Mobile version of the Wikipedia websites is slowly progressing. In the past weeks support for language variants for the Serbian and Chinese languages was added, and languages that are written right-to-left were finally properly supported. The translatewiki.net community has been hard at work with translating the software in various languages and the software is almost fully translated for 69 languages now. If you want to help your language, read the instructions on Meta.
New MediaWiki video player is progressing
In a blog post, Wikipedia editor TheDJ [who is also the Technology report author for this week] writes about his experience using the new HTML5 video player that has been in development. The video player has recently gained fullscreen support, and allows for subtitles to be added to videos. The work is a donation by the company Kaltura who are lending their developer Michael Dale to work on the project. The player can be easily tested with this test video, or by enabling the mwEmbed Gadget in your preferences.
Initial view of the player
Selection menu of subtitles
Subtitles beneath the video
On 16 February, Domas Mituzas, who is one of the primary volunteer system administrators of Wikimedia, announced that from now on all software that accesses the Wikimedia websites will be required to provide a user-agent. This action was taken without announcement and initially broke some software. Breakages of Google's Translator Toolkit and Apple's Dictionary application were noted and quickly resolved. The change did draw a lot of response from people who did not want their browsers identified when browsing the website, but the consensus among the system administrators was that the sacrifice was worth the benefits for a website maintained by volunteers and funded by donations.
The reason for the change was the incredible amount of resources that were being consumed by automated tools, with the sole purpose of using Wikimedia information for spam purposes. The hope is that by forcing everyone to use a user-agent, it will become easier to identify users with good intentions. The system administrators intend to be tougher in the future in dealing with problematic website usage, and being able to identify people with good intentions should prevent them from becoming unintentional victims. The block saw an immediate effect in resource usage as can be seen in last months graphs (search servers, application servers).
The following bots and tasks have been approved in the past three weeks: