As previewed last week, support for version six of the Internet Protocol (normally known by its initialism "IPv6") was enabled on Wikimedia wikis on June 6, hyped as World IPv6 Launch Day. IPv6 succeeds the widely-used IPv4 form that most people are familiar with, replacing the common IPv4 address (like 18.104.22.168) which can only provide 232 = 4,294,967,296 unique addresses with a longer 128-bit hexadecimal string (such as 2001:0:4137:9E76:247C:A71:833A:FA41).
The change, which is slowly being made by website providers around the world, will eventually allow for far more than 4.3 billion devices without introducing the potential for collateral damage occurring when an IPv4 address comes to represent many users (using NAT). By comparison, the Internet is projected to grow to 15 billion active devices by 2015; whereas this would have posed a problem under IPv4, IPv6 has been deemed sufficiently broad to offer the Internet almost unlimited room to grow.
While only a very small fraction of anonymous edits now come from IPv6 addresses, the June 6 deployment has caused significant disruption. Various scripts that are now being fed IPv6 addresses as input are either fully or partially broken due to the new format of the addresses. For example, Huggle was reported to choke on IPv6 address edits, and popups does not yet recognise IPv6 addresses as valid anonymous users. Various Toolserver scripts need updating as well, especially WHOIS and other IP address lookup tools regularly used by Wikimedians to counter disruption. Fixes to the German Wikipedia's vandal fighter community tool infrastructure, built and run by a small group of volunteer coders on behalf of the whole community, are expected to take weeks.
I get that this was an exciting step for the engineers who got it done, and I tip my hat to all of them for pulling it off; from that sense it's been a successful implementation [but] I also get that at least 30% of WMF users on hundreds of projects – that's roughly how many use one or more gadgets, scripts or tools that didn't work after this switch – have now had their "editing experience" negatively affected, and that almost all of it could have been avoided with a month or two of notice.
—English Wikipedian User:Risker. Responding, system administrator Ryan Lane asked whether that many tools had in fact been as badly affected as she had implied.
Even so, the disruption was considerably less than would have been experienced last year, when the Wikimedia Foundation had to drop out of World IPv6 Day because some parts of its database were not ready to accommodate IPv6 addresses. Indeed, this time around the issues seemed to have been successfully resolved by the World IPv6 Launch on June 6, if only just.
Despite the successful switch-on itself, the deployment has been far from uncontroversial: since June 6, there has been substantial criticism of how late in the day the Wikimedia Foundation seemed to resolve to take part in the launch event: right up until an announcement several days before, there had been numerous conflicting rumours about the WMF's participation, based on a few vague words by system administrators here and there. The lack of a Wikimedia Foundation listing at the World IPv6 Launch website further clouded the picture.
Unless extremely serious issues arise, it is planned that IPv6 will be enabled indefinitely. The new protocol poses a learning curve for administrators; at least three administrators on the English Wikipedia, for example confused IPv6 addresses with accounts on World IPv6 Launch day itself. It also poses a complication to CheckUser functionality. Fortunately, there is still time to learn, because IPv6 users present an extremely small minority (less than 0.7%) of editors on Wikipedia; the vast majority of IP and account blocks are still for IPv4 and will be for some time.
Not all fixes may have gone live to WMF sites at the time of writing; some may not be scheduled to go live for many weeks.
"Last modified" extension deployed, disabled: The LastModified extension, which puts a "Last modified" timestamp in the top-right hand corner of an article, was briefly deployed on the English Wikipedia for a test set of articles. The extension aims to make a page's history and constantly updated nature more obvious to the casual reader; the human readable description (for example, "Last modified 2 minutes ago") will be linked to the history of an article to test whether it generates clickthroughs. The display could also serve as a warning that some information might be out of date, although bot edits are not currently filtered out when the display is generated. The extension was later disabled for overwhelming the Wikimedia API servers with requests (server admin log), preventing other API users such as anti-vandalism tools from functioning correctly for a short period.
1.20wmf4 deployed on remaining wikis, wmf5 in the pipeline: The last Wikimedia wikis (specifically non-English Wikipedias) were moved onto MediaWiki 1.20wmf4 this week (server admin log), ending its deployment cycle and beginning that of 1.20wmf5, which was successfully deployed to two test wikis and MediaWiki.org on June 11. The 121 changes to MediaWiki core packaged with 1.20wmf5 including drastically increasing the IPv6 rangeblock limit to /19 in size and changing the display order for the recently separated login and create account links to put create account on the left and login (preceded by the existing icon) on the right. 180 further changes – those made to WMF-deployed extensions in the past fortnight – are also included. 1.20wmf5 will now be deployed in stages, hitting its final wikis on June 20. The stage that includes the English Wikipedia will be on June 18.
Wikipedia Mobile version redesign: The beginning of a substantive redesign of the Wikipedia Mobile Version was publicly announced this week (Wikimedia blog). Specifically, based on the feedback of the community members the Wikipedia mobile team is focusing on making the Wikipedia mobile version more user friendly. To this end, in the new design (beta version available) navigation options are now split between a main menu containing links to settings, the random article feature and nearby (a new feature based on the existing functionality on the Wikimedia Android and iOS apps) and an "Action Bar" which incorporates any features related to the article itself, such as the interwiki links. Making the announcement, WMF Mobile Product Manager Phil Inje Chang called for user feedback via either an associated MediaWiki page or via email at mobile-feedback-llists.wikimedia.org.
Fundraising engineer hired: Recent hire Adam Wight will start work at Wikimedia Foundation headquarters in San Francisco this week as a Fundraising Engineer (wikitech-l mailing list). He was involved in customizing open-source web services for non-profits at web development firm Giant Rabbit, and he is familiar with the CiviCRM system used to handle Wikimedia donations, which could prove vital in allowing him to more successfully support both the activities of the foundation and the other chapters, many of whom use the same software. Before joining here he was involved in the Atako Project (the first open-source Google Gadget directory); "Halfway Library", a project aimed at sharing and reviewing books; and "Prokaryote", an evolution/behaviour patterns simulator used in university and high school classrooms. More recently he has contributed to "Offline" extension for MediaWiki, and he is currently helping with a distributed wiki project "OneCommons". Wight's first official day was on May 31, but his first day at the San Francisco office will be on June 13.
Repo creation right: There was a long discussion this week on the wikitech-l mailing list about whether or not the right to create Gerrit repositories ("repos"; essentially stores of code for individual projects) should be extended to all WMF engineers to speed up the current development cycle. Responding, WMF developer and Gerrit expert Chad Horohoe explained that setting up a new repository is not just about choosing a name; rather, the creator must have some knowledge about the structure of user access permissions in Gerrit, plus a number of other related properties. Though a "Project Creators" group could be created to meet this need – Horohoe provided a a tutorial on how to create repositories for this purpose – there was concern about repo list clutter, given that deleting and renaming the repos is not possible at this moment. Nevertheless, there was also general support for the view that extended creation rights could decentralise Gerrit handling, making it more in-keeping with underlying version control system Git's own more distributive approach to contributions.