Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2020-03-01/News and notes

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Alexa ranking down to 13th worldwide: Falling behind Chinese websites.

Alexa ranking down to 13th worldwide

Wikipedia's Alexa ranking has fallen from the 5th most popular website in early August to 13th most popular last week. The newly more popular websites are based in China as can be seen in our List of most popular websites (June 2019) and the current version of the article. Wikipedia's ranking in individual countries is holding steady – in the U.S. (7), the U.K. (7), Australia (8), India (6), and many other countries – but it does not appear in the top 50 in China, where access to Wikipedia is blocked.

Space shrinking and moving

Wikimedia Space is being shut down with its blog to be moved. The space was started in June with the big goals of becoming a news and discussion space for the entire Wikimedia movement. It was designed to encourage participation by being open to all languages, friendly, and safe. It was run and moderated by WMF Community Relations.

In practice it served mostly as an English language discussion site with a small number of participants, who were more diverse by nationality than you'd see on a single language Wikipedia. A blog space, which will be continued after a move, was a bit more successful.

The announcement of the closure is here.

An RfC that followed from last month's From the editor column asked the Wikimedia Foundation to enforce the Terms of Use against new violations by Status Labs. In 2013, the company - then known as Wiki-PR - was banned by the community, along with 250 sockpuppet accounts, in what was then the the largest paid editing scandal in Wikipedia history. The recent RfC was closed after four days with 100 editors supporting to 2 editors opposing.

Kobe Bryant's death causes DDOS-like outages

Kobe Bryant 2015.jpg
US basketball player Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)

On January 26, users in several geographical regions reported outages when trying to access Wikipedia. The official Wikipedia Twitter account announced later that day that "engineers have addressed the problems some readers had when accessing Wikipedia in the last day" without giving further details, but on her personal Twitter feed, WMF Executive Director Katherine Maher confirmed a user's assumption that the situation was caused by a DDOS (distributed denial of services) situation: "we are mitigating the current DDOS using a service from Cloudflare. We have been working on new DDOS resiliency but it isn't up and running yet."

As reported previously, back in September, a deliberate DDOS attack had prompted the Wikimedia Foundation to use a then-novel service by Cloudflare, which is apparently side-stepping some of the privacy concerns that have been associated with the company's traditional DDOS protection mechanism. No official information about the new setup has been posted yet and the September attack hasn't yet received the customary incident report, although in October, the WMF Communications team expressed "hope to have something for you in the next few weeks." In her January 26 Twitter conversation, Maher explained that "we decided against posting further information as doing so shares information that could increase exposure for a similar attack. We have been evaluating third party DDOS support services since the last outage, but weren’t going to share more until they go into deployment."

That said, at least the causes of January 26 incident were subsequently documented in an incident report posted two weeks later, explaining that "at 19:47 UTC [on January 26], the news of Kobe Bryant's death was announced. This caused a surge in both edits and page views, causing a stampede of [server] requests and a general slowdown". In 2009, the death of Michael Jackson had similarly caused technical issues (cf. Signpost coverage).

Brief notes