MediaWiki is a free software package developed for web-based multilingual free content encyclopedias like Wikipedia and other wikis. MediaWiki was originally developed for Wikipedia. Later on, this took an important role in other projects of Wikimedia Foundation. Some of them are: Meta-Wiki, Wikibooks, Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikinews and Wikimedia Download area.

Difference between webpage and wikitext

Wikitext is the textual content that is displayed in the edit box (text editor) and does not support all features of a webpage. It has been observed that HTML tags support comments, but in general, comments are not found in web pages. You can easily add comments to display information in the wikitext. However, wikitext lacks some features like: images, time and date of last edit, image description page, and values of the variables.

MediaWiki is a free server based software package that is licensed under the GNU General Public License. Users can easily run this software on a large server farm to manage the contents of any website. We can broadly divide MediaWiki in four layers: data layer, logic layer, network layer and user layer.

MediaWiki Illustration

How does MediaWiki work?

When you want to edit a page and then submit it MediaWiki writes it to the database. However, the previous versions of that page's content are kept in the database to avoid spamming or vandalism. MediaWiki also manages images and multimedia files stored in the file system. If the wikis are large with lots of users, MediaWiki supports caching and can be easily coupled with Squid proxy server software.

Advantages of using MediaWiki

MediaWiki allows you changing the Skins – you can change the logo of the wiki by altering the logo variable and can use the image you want to use as logo. You can also change the icon that is displayed in the address bar of your browser.

MediaWiki allows you to add extensions such as Image Gallery, Forum, Mambo etc. The file upload feature lets you upload graphics and sound files.

MediaWiki keeps track of edits. The editing features are well developed to meet users and editors needs. The syntax editing is based on UseMod, with support for mixing wiki-syntax and HTML.

MediaWiki offers you full text search. Just click on the Go button, it will take you to the relevant content. With MediaWiki you can also search images, name of users and site stats.

Features of MediaWiki

All contents are stored in the database of MediaWiki and the purpose of using MediaWiki depends upon the nature of the website that you want to manage with this software.

Following are some of the significant features of MediaWiki:


The editing feature of MediaWiki allows you edit separated sections of an article. With MediaWiki the procedure of editing is simple and easy. Moreover, the edit section contains JavaScript based edit toolbar, which lets you format the content too. The system will display this toolbar if you make the JavaScript enable. Though MediaWiki keeps record of all edits in its Recent Changes list, you can hide edits from the list by marking them as "minor".  Double click editing is another interesting feature in MediaWiki, which allows the user to edit any article by clicking twice on the link of the article.

This is how a MediaWiki editing box looks when you try to edit some content:

MediaWiki Editing Box

Structure and syntax

Use of HTML tags in MediaWiki is restricted. However, you can change this default mode and can use all HTML tags. Additionally, you can combine wiki-syntax with HTML tags only through "Editing syntax based on UseMod". A user can assign several categories to any page and can maintain hierarchy of categories to track the contents. Making category and subcategory is quite useful to manage contents. MediaWiki allows special keywords to insert dynamic data like – page name, date and number of articles. You can also put links to the individual section of the articles to make the edit process of the content user-friendly.

Here is the list of preferences you get from MediaWiki.

MediaWiki Preferences

Multilanguage support

MediaWiki lets you translate content of articles in 6,500 different languages. You can link each article with wikis in other languages by applying the "inter-language links" feature. Here you have to maintain separate database for each wikis (this is applied for each languages). For example, you create an article in English and in French; you have to store these articles in two separate databases.

Search and Queries

This is a unique feature that you can add to your website to search the articles. MediaWiki provides searching facility of entire text. The search procedure is quite simple for the users.

MediaWiki Search

Special report pages come with some remarkable facilities like:

  • New Pages that displays list of articles, which are created in the system
  • Ancient Pages that provides the facility to sort articles
  • List of images, users and titles
  • Statistics of the website
  • Short and Long articles
  • Articles, which are visited regularly


MediaWiki comes with some interesting multimedia tools and extensions. You can upload both graphics and sound files. All the uploaded files will be recorded in the Recent Changes list.  User can easily resize the images by using the tool "ImageMagick" or "libgd". Also, you can use simple syntax for writing caption of the image and image alignment.

This is the section that allows you to upload files

MediaWiki Multimedia

WikiHiero is a lucrative feature of MediaWiki that is used for Egyptian hieroglyphs, but for this you must install a separate component. Another interesting tool is EasyTimeline. However, you need to install a separate component to use this.

Tracking all Edits

It is easy to track all the edits through the "Watchlist", which you will find in every page of MediaWiki. Watchlist provides the facility to track the changes that you had made in the articles and declared as interesting. Other users can contribute their thoughts by using this software and all these contributions are recorded in the sidebar of their pages. Based on these changes the system will automatically update the database.

Tracking edits has become easy with"Extended recent changes" feature, which provides links to differentiate the edits and allows you to view article history, user page and user talk page. If you wish, you can select users and block them to access the articles.

"Related changes" is the filtered version of "Recent changes" that allows you to view recently changed articles. "Side-by-Side diffs" feature provides the facility to reintegrate the changes. Changes are highlighted in bold and therefore, differentiating the edit portion from the unchanged portion becomes easy to understand.


Corresponding to every article and user page, the software offers a separate section or page where users can write his/her comments about the articles. "Talk" and "User talk" are two separate namespaces. Other features of this section are "Message notification" and "Automatic signature".  Message notification works when other users make any change in the discussion page. In that case the system will display the notice: "You have new messages". Authors can use "Automatic signature" mainly in "Talk" pages of MediaWiki. Here you have to type the sign "~" thrice, this you have to do while changing the content of the article. MediaWiki will automatically replaces three "~" with user name, current date and a link to user page of the editor.


MediaWiki maintains different terms and conditions for users. Since this software is used to share knowledge, therefore it becomes necessary to differentiate user accessibility of anonymous users, sysops, signed in users, developers and bureaucrats. Prior registration is mandatory before making any change in the article; only the "signed in users" can edit the content of the article.
MediaWiki allows "signed in users" to

  • Upload files to the system
  • Distinguish the changes as "minor edits"
  • Change the name of a page
  • Move a page
  • Utilize all features of "Watchlist"

Bureaucrats can generate sysops to restrict the users to change the contents of the page. Other than registered users, only sysops can edit the contents of a protected page.
Moreover, sysops are authorized to

  • Restrict any user by the username or IP address
  • Restore or delete the pages
  • Use SQL queries in the database to manage the content of the articles

Administrators of MediaWiki are known as "developers" who are responsible for locking the database and other operations, which are necessary to maintain the database of the software.


The backend of the software offers features like: Output Caching, Parser Caching and MySQL driven database. Output Caching is used to save the entire page as static HTML files to meet the requirements of the clients. Parser Caching, on the other hand, decreases the redundant processing. Since the backend of MediaWiki supports Cookie based Account and Login systems, therefore, unregistered users can also edit the content of the pages. Apart from all these, RSS and RDF are two significant features of the backend. Special pages like: "Newpages" and "Recent Changes" contains RSS.

Requirements to install MediaWiki

Minimum system requirements for installing MediaWiki are:

  • 32-bit/64-bit Windows: Windows 2000, XP and 98
  • Disk space: 7 MB for downloads, 21 MB for initial installation and configuration, additional space as wiki database grows with edits and uploads
  • Wikimedia Apache Server

If you need to install MediaWiki on your computer, you require 48MB RAM capacity. However, it is recommended that you maintain 256MB as the minimum capacity of RAM for each site.

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