Have you ever wondered how millions of Wikipedia articles stay accurate, up to date, and vandalism-free? It all starts with the watchlist, a feature available to everyone who signs up for a free account on any Wikimedia project. This week, the Wikimedia mobile web team is releasing the ability to log in or create an account and view or add pages to your watchlist—all from the comfort of your mobile device. We’re hoping this simple but powerful feature will empower existing users and entice new users to sign up and start contributing.
The watchlist is the backbone of Wikipedia’s quality. Most people don’t realize that the articles they read are constantly being modified, sometimes hundreds of thousands of times, by volunteer contributors from all over the world. Wikipedia users who have an account can keep track of these changes by adding pages they care about to their watchlist; this way, they can monitor their favorite articles for vandalism or spam. It is in part through this process of collaboration that one-sentence article stubs evolve into high quality encyclopedic content and malicious or joke edits disappear as quickly as they were added.
With the steady growth of mobile traffic—three billion mobile page views to our projects last month alone—we want to provide important features like these for users on their Internet-enabled device of choice. Unlike the desktop view, however, on mobile we’re showing the watchlist star to all users, as an incentive for long-time editors and curious newcomers alike to log in.
We hope that this simple feature will draw in new users, who may not even be aware that Wikipedia can be edited, and educate them about the constantly evolving nature of our content. To make viewing the watchlist more newbie-friendly, we’ve included a full view of all pages you’ve starred, which also functions like a reading list. This can be toggled to show the “modified” view, with pages that have recently been modified, as well as the changes that were made to them.
Enabling account login and creation on the mobile web also opens the door for additional types of mobile contribution. Our next step will be building and releasing features that allow anyone to add photos to articles, make small edits, and more. If you’re interested in staying up to date and giving feedback on new features, subscribe to our mailing list and lend your voice to our current and future work on mobile web and apps.
Maryana Pinchuck, Associate product manager