Wikipedia:For and Against TFA protection
|This essay contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. Essays are not Wikipedia policies or guidelines. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.|
Views regarding protection of Today's featured article 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.
Today's featured article attracts far more vandals than other articles, and the proportion of vandal edits is also much higher. A featured article should "exemplify our very best work." This is not the impression a reader gets seeing a vandalized article. Anti-vandalism bots are ineffective against subtle changes, and can even revert to damaged versions. 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 large parts of the 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.
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?). New and anonymous users come to the talk page to register their complaints that the FA is being vandalized and request protection.
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. At Commons, the featured image and media are both fully protected. Templates that don't even appear on content pages, such as WikiProject banners, are often fully protected, despite there being no history of vandalism or any evidence that it might occur. In addition, certain mainspace articles are protected for very extended periods (e.g. George W. Bush).
A featured article should represent Wikipedia's unique qualities on the Internet. This includes being editable by anyone. That anyone may edit is also mentioned in Wikipedia's Five pillars, and is central to the Wikipedia philosophy.
Protection does not assume good faith regarding new and anonymous editors. Anonymous editors, like others, are capable of making worthwhile additions to articles. Protecting the featured articles might postpone or even prevent these improvements. Even where anon editing does not improve the article, we should be wary of disallowing it. While hit-and-run "graffiti" is the most common type of anon editing, another significant pattern is the addition of anecdotes, trivia, or memes. These are often not posted in bad faith and may be a person's first experiment in editing Wikipedia.
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. Some featured articles may be improved by their time on the Main Page.
Finally, 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.
- An average random article is edited once every 23 days, and one in twenty edits is a vandal edit. (See Wikipedia:WikiProject Vandalism studies/Study1). Hence, on average a random 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 TFA is 34.4% (December MPFA analysis), compared to 5% for the average article (WikiProject Vandalism Study 1).
- See Wikipedia:Featured article criteria
- Reversion by User:MartinBot to a severely damaged version of Basiliscus: Today's featured article on 1 June 2007
- 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.
- 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).
- 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".
- 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: 
- Wikipedia's slogan describes it as 'the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit'; in addition 'Ability of anyone to edit articles without registering' is the number two foundation issue behind NPOV.
- 4 beneficial edits out of 59 total edits by new users and IPs:    
- For example, this edit to Cougar.
- A typical example: ChrisWallis (talk · contribs) on Jupiter. Here is a good-faith anon addition from someone who later started an account Exiled from GROGGS (talk · contribs)
- Before and after comparison of Diplodocus: Today's featured article on 26 May 2007.