Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement


Help Test Media Viewer

Media Viewer lets you browse larger images on Wikimedia sites.

We invite you to try out Media Viewer, a new tool for browsing multimedia content, which is now in beta on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites.

Today, viewing images on our sites can be a frustrating experience for casual users: when you click on a thumbnail in an article, you are taken to a separate page where the image is shown in medium size and surrounded with a lot of text information that can be confusing to readers.

Media Viewer aims to improve this viewing experience by showing images in larger size, as an overlay on the current page. To reduce visual clutter, all information is shown below the image, and can be expanded at a click of a button.

This new tool is being developed by the Wikimedia Foundation’s multimedia team and we now invite you to try out in beta version. We plan to gradually release this tool in coming months, starting with a few pilot tests, followed by wider deployments in the next quarter.

How it works

With Media Viewer, you can click on any image thumbnail to see it in large size, without visual clutter. You can see the file name and author credits at the bottom of the screen, and view more information in an expandable panel below the image.

You can also expand the image to full screen, for a more immersive experience, or browse through all images in an article or gallery by clicking on the next and previous arrows. The ‘Use this file’ tool will make it easier to share images with your community, add them to articles or download them for your own purposes, with full attribution to contributors.

User response so far suggests that Media Viewer provides a richer multimedia experience, right where users expect it. They tell us they can see the images more clearly, without having to jump to separate pages, and that the interface is more intuitive, offering easy access to images and metadata.

How you can help

Can you help us test Media Viewer in coming weeks? It’s already included in our “Beta Features” program, so you can try it out right away. Now that we’re planning to enable it more widely, your help is even more crucial to uncover issues and bugs we haven’t caught before.

You can test this tool on any Wikimedia site; for example, you can try it out on this test page. To enable Media Viewer, you first need to log in and click on the small ‘Beta’ link next to ‘Preferences’ in your personal menu; then check the box next to ‘Media Viewer’ and click ‘Save’; you will now be able to click on any thumbnail image to see it in the Media Viewer on that site . Before you start, be sure to read these testing tips.

Try out Media Viewer and let us know what you think on this discussion page. If you find any technical bugs, please report them on Bugzilla.

Over 12,000 beta testers have now enabled Media Viewer across wikis around the world. Here is an overview of the feedback they have kindly given us to help improve this tool. Many of their suggestions are now being implemented, as part of our current release plan.

Next steps

The next version of Media Viewer will support video, audio and other file formats.

We are now working on beta version v0.2 of Media Viewer, with a focus on a better user interface, faster image load, more file info and attributions, still images only, as well as improved ‘Use this file’ tools (e.g. share, embed, download). We aim to release this version gradually out of beta, starting with limited tests on a few pilot sites in coming weeks. Based on test results, we plan a wider release of Media Viewer v0.2 next quarter.

The next version v0.3 of Media Viewer will focus on supporting more file formats (e.g. slides, video, audio), as well as zooming on large images and adding plug-ins for developers. For a preview of what we’re considering, check our Media Viewer v0.3 goals and mockups.

In future releases, we also hope to provide a few tools to help users take action on the media they are viewing: for example, a user might want to thank the person who uploaded a file, or report issues about that file. To see how we propose to expand Media Viewer in coming years, check out this multimedia vision for 2016.


If you are a developer, you can learn more about the technology behind Media Viewer on these two extension pages: MultimediaViewer (the front-end code that delivers the main user experience) and CommonsMetadata (the back-end code that delivers the file info to the viewer). In coming weeks, we hope to add a variety of hooks, accessible via the usual mw.hook interface, to allow more customization of behavior in the MultimediaViewer extension through gadgets and other extensions.

For more information about this tool, visit its project overview page; you can also learn more about other multimedia projects we’re working at the Multimedia project hub.


Multimedia Team members: Gilles, Mark, Fabrice, Gergo, and Aaron (left to right)

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the folks who made this project possible, including Gilles Dubuc, Pau Giner, Aaron Arcos, Keegan Peterzell, Brian Wolff, Jared Zimmerman, May Galloway, Bryan Davis, Brion Vibber, Rob Lanphier, Erik Moeller, Howie Fung and Tomasz Finc, to name but a few.

We’re also grateful to all the community members who helped create this feature, through a series of roundtable discussions held by video conference, in person and over IRC. If you would like to participate in future discussions, we invite you to join our multimedia mailing list.

We look forward to more collaborations with you in coming weeks. Your feedback is invaluable for improving Media Viewer, and providing a better experience to our users!

Best regards,

Fabrice Florin, Product Manager
Mark Holmquist, Software Engineer
Gergő Tisza, Software Engineer
on behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Multimedia Team

RfC: Should we support MP4 video on our sites?

A video of a cheetah, captured in slow-motion at 1200 fps. The video was released on Vimeo in MP4 format and converted to OGV format before uploading to Commons. It cannot be viewed in this format on most mobile phones and many web browsers.

The Wikimedia Foundation’s multimedia team seeks your guidance on a proposal to support the MP4 video format. This digital video standard is used widely around the world to record, edit and watch videos on mobile phones, desktop computers and home video devices. It is also known as H.264/MPEG-4 or AVC.

Supporting the MP4 format would make it much easier for our users to view and contribute video on Wikimedia projects. Video files could be offered in dual formats on our sites, so we could continue to support current open formats (WebM and Ogg Theora).

Currently, open video files cannot be viewed on many mobile devices or web browsers without extra software, making it difficult or impossible for several hundred million monthly visitors to watch videos on our sites. Video contributions are also limited by the fact that most mobile phones and camcorders record video only in MP4 format, and that transcoding software is scarce and hard to use by casual users.

However, MP4 is a patent-encumbered format, and using a proprietary format would be a departure from our current practice of only supporting open formats on our sites—even though the licenses appear to have acceptable legal terms, with only a small fee required.

We would appreciate your guidance on whether or not to support MP4 on our sites. This Request for Comments presents views both in favor of and against MP4 support, and hundreds of community members have already posted their recommendations.

What do you think? Please post your comments on this page.

All users are welcome to participate, whether you are active on Commons, Wikipedia, other Wikimedia projects—or any site that uses content from our free media repository. We also invite you to spread the word in your community about this issue.

We look forward to a constructive discussion with you and your community, so we can make a more informed decision together about this important question.

All the best,

Fabrice Florin, Product Manager, Multimedia
On behalf of the Multimedia team

Wikimedia Foundation’s Engineering and Product Group

A Multimedia Vision for 2016

How will we use multimedia on our sites in three years?

The Wikimedia Foundation’s Multimedia team was formed to provide a richer experience and support more media contributions on Wikipedia, Commons, and MediaWiki sites. We believe that audio-visual media offer a unique opportunity to engage a wide range of users to participate productively in our collective work.

To inform our plans, we’ve created a simple vision of how we might collaborate through multimedia by 2016. This hypothetical scenario was prepared with guidance from community members and is intended for discussion purposes, to help us visualize possible improvements to our user experience over the next three years.


The best way to view this vision is to watch this video:

Multimedia Vision 2016, presented by Fabrice Florin at a Wikimedia Meetup in San Francisco on Dec. 9, 2013.


Scientific multimedia files get a second life on Wikipedia

On Wikimedia projects, audio and video content has traditionally taken a backseat relative to text and static images (however, changes are underway). Conversely, more and more scholarly publications come with audio and video files, though these are — a legacy from the print era — typically relegated to the “supplementary material” rather than embedded next to the relevant text passages. And a rising number of these publications are Open Access, i.e. freely available under Creative Commons licenses that allow for the materials to be reused in other contexts.

Why not enrich thematically related Wikimedia pages with such multimedia files? That’s where the Open Access Media Importer (OAMI) comes in. It makes scientific video and audio clips accessible to the Wikimedia community and a broader public audience. The OAMI is an open-source program (or ‘bot’) that crawls PubMed Central — a full-text database of over 3 million biomedical research articles — and extracts multimedia files from those publications in the database that are available under Wikimedia-compatible licenses.

Over 700 OAMI-contributed media files are currently used in Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. This X-ray video of a breathing American alligator — originally published by Claessens et al. (2009) in PLOS ONE — is currently being used for illustrating the “Respiratory system” entries in the Bulgarian, Chinese, English, German, Russian, and Serbocroatian Wikipedias.

Such reuse-friendly terms are the key ingredient to making scholarly materials useful beyond the article in which they have originally been published. However, OAMI aims to make this material even more useful by making it accessible:

  • in places where people actually look for them (Wikimedia platforms are a prime example),
  • in one coherent format (in our case Ogg Vorbis/Theora, which isn’t encumbered by patent restrictions), and
  • in a way that allows for collaborative annotation with relevant metadata. This makes it a lot easier to browse and search the media files.


VipsScaler implementation by volunteer developer improves image handling on Wikimedia sites

A depiction of the Battle of Belmont, Second Boer War. This image is an example of image reduction in VipsScaler. The original file has a resolution of 52 megapixels

Loading and resizing large images within Wikimedia projects has become faster and more reliable with the rollout of VipsScaler, a wraparound to the VIPS free image processing software. VIPS is a tool designed to use a small amount of memory when resizing images. This allows the wiki to create thumbnails of very large PNG files, something which previously was not possible because large amounts of memory would be required. And while Wikimedia Foundation technical staff rolled it out, a volunteer wrote the code.

The most common type of image file on the internet is a JPEG, but since its compression leads to deteriorated image quality with repeated editing, most Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons non-photographic image files are stored in PNG formats, since it uses lossless compression. Until VipsScaler, thumbnails of PNG files larger than 50 megapixels could not be created.

Volunteer Bryan Tong Minh was a student at Delft University of Technology in 2008 when he initially wrote a utility capable of downscaling PNG images without using huge amounts of memory. Active on Wikimedia Commons at the time, Tong Minh (User:Bryan) said he “was annoyed by the fact that large PNGs did not have thumbnails because the image scaler that we used, ImageMagick, could not efficiently scale large non-JPEG images.”

During the review period of the utility, he became aware of VIPS, which allows for memory-efficient scaling of image files — more than just PNGs. He then set out to implement an extension that would allow usage of VIPS with MediaWiki, which became the VipsScaler extension.

“For many years, PNG files over a certain size could not be displayed on Wikipedia. They could be downloaded, but gave an error when thumbnailed and, on their file page, made it appear that the file was corrupt,” said Adam Cuerden, whose restoration work on Wikipedia since 2007 accounts for four percent of all featured pictures on English Wikipedia. Cuerden said it wasn’t uncommon for PNG files to be marked for deletion because they could not be displayed.

Currently, VIPS scales PNG images from 35 to 140 megapixels, according to Commons contributor Brian Wolff. He points to this 72 megapixel image below of Abraham Lincoln, restored by Adam Cuerden, as an example of an image that previously wouldn’t have been able to be rendered.

Breaking through walls of text: How we will create a richer Wikimedia experience

Wikimedia consists of many projects, Wikipedia most notable among them. However, the name “Wikimedia” suggests a world beyond text. Indeed, Wikimedia Commons, our repository of freely-licensed media files, already contains more than 16 million images, sound files, and videos.

Well, mostly images. Right now, there are fewer than 30,000 video files, and fewer than 170,000 audio files. And while Wikipedia articles are often richly illustrated, they still share the old-school feel of a print-based experience. Projects like Snow Fall by the New York Times show what an immersive reader experience can look like, with video elements prominently featured and blended into the core of the content. In contrast, Wikipedia articles rarely have videos, and if they do, those videos are usually very short and included at the bottom of the article.

Of course, well-written text forms the foundation of most high quality educational content.  Text is versatile, adaptable, accessible, efficient, and relatively easy to collaborate on.  It will form the core of the Wikimedia experience for a long time to come. Still, we can greatly improve the educational value of our sites by empowering everyone to share media, collaborate on improving that media, and using that media well throughout our sites.

In the last three years, Wikimedia has seen some very significant multimedia developments:

  • The Wikimedia movement has launched successful photo contests and competitions, notably the “Wiki Loves Monuments” competition, which was recognized as the world’s largest photo competition by the Guinness Book of Records. In the 2012 competition, more than 350,000 photos were taken by volunteers. It was organized by Wikimedia chapters and volunteers in 33 countries (see jury report).
  • Wikimedia chapters and volunteers have also formed partnerships into the cultural sector (e.g. museums, galleries, archives), resulting in hundreds of thousands of photographs, reproductions of paintings, and other media being made available on Wikimedia Commons.
  • Wikimedia Foundation has developed a number of enhancements and features focused on multimedia:
    • the Upload Wizard, an easy-to-use tool for uploading media files that’s been used to upload more than 2.2 million files to Wikimedia Commons;
    • upload features for the mobile web that make it easy to enrich any article requiring a photograph using a smartphone;
    • a new HTML5 video player with support for the open WebM video format and encoding of videos in multiple resolutions;
    • dedicated upload apps for iOS and Android are in development;
    • a feature to import photographs from Flickr (started as a Google Summer of Code project)
    • an experimental feature to upload files up to 500MB in size.

In combination, these efforts have already borne fruit. The number of contributors to Wikimedia Commons has increased significantly in the last 3 years.  In January 2010, only 13219 users had contributed at least one upload.  That number increased to 20161 users by January 2013.

At the same time, we haven’t invested enough. With the exception of the work of our mobile team, much of the above work has been done by one or two developers at a time, often in between other priorities or by engineers working as volunteers. There has never been a well-resourced team fully dedicated to multimedia engineering work at the Wikimedia Foundation. This is about to change.

The Wikimedia Foundation is hiring at least three engineers and additional product/design support to fully focus on improving the user experience for contributing, curating and reviewing multimedia. Right now, you can apply for the following positions:

Here are some of the key challenges for the new team:

  • further improvements to the upload experience. Contributing an image or video to an article while you’re editing should not require leaving the “edit mode” — it should be integrated with the editing process.
  • solidifying experimental features such as large file uploads;
  • improving transcoding features for video files to reduce the learning curve for video uploaders;
  • improving media search and discovery;
  • improving display of images, videos and sound files in Wikipedia articles, including a standard lightbox viewer for media embedded in an article and related media from Wikimedia Commons (building on some of the excellent submissions in our October 2011 Coding Challenge).

As we continue to provide new means for uploading media, we need to ensure that the Wikimedia community is empowered to curate and categorize the images. Curation includes removal of content that is out of scope or incorrectly licensed. To more effectively patrol content, the development of curation tools similar to the Page Curation feature developed for Wikipedia may become necessary.

Beyond Wikimedia’s category system, we will likely want to explore implementation of lightweight tagging systems, possibly in partnership with the Wikidata team.

As if this weren’t enough, the long term frontiers for multimedia include web-based editing of images, video and sounds, improvement for subtitle editing, browser-based audio recording features, and more.

In short, breaking through walls of text and creating a richer media experience for all our projects will keep the Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikimedia movement busy for many years to come. Please help us expand our library of freely-licensed educational media, and help us ensure it gets used effectively on the world’s fifth-most popular website.  Apply today.

Rob Lanphier, Director of Platform Engineering
Erik Möller, Deputy Director; Vice President of Engineering and Product Development

Introducing Wikipedia’s new HTML5 video player

A new video player has been enabled on Wikipedia and its sister sites, and it comes with the promise of bringing free educational videos to more people, on more devices, in more languages.

The player is the same HTML5 player used in the Kaltura open-source video platform. It has been integrated with MediaWiki (the software that runs Wikimedia sites like Wikipedia) through an extension called TimedMediaHandler. It replaces an older Ogg-only player that has been in use since 2007.

The new player supports closed captions in multiple languages.

Based on HTML5, the new player plays audio and video files on wiki pages. It brings many new features, like advanced support for closed captions and other timed text. By allowing contributors to transcribe videos, the new player is a significant step towards accessibility for hearing-impaired Wikipedia readers. Captions can easily be translated into many languages, thus expanding their potential audience.

TimedMediaHandler also comes with other useful features, like support for the royalty-free WebM video format. Support for WebM makes it possible to seamlessly import videos encoded to that format, such as freely-licensed content from YouTube’s massive library.

Even further behind the scenes, TimedMediaHandler adds support for server-side transcoding, i.e. the ability to convert from one video format to another, in order to deliver the appropriate video stream to the user depending on their bandwidth and the size of the player. For example, support for mobile formats is available, although it is not currently enabled.

The player’s “Share” feature provides a short snippet of code to directly embed videos from Wikimedia Commons in web pages and blog posts, as is the case here.

Sponsored by Kaltura and Google, developers Michael Dale and Jan Gerber are the main architects of the successful launch of the new player. With the support of the Wikimedia Foundation’s engineering team and Kaltura, they have gone through numerous cycles of development, review and testing to finally release the fruits of years of work.

Efforts to better integrate video content to Wikipedia and its sister sites date back to early 2008, when Kaltura and the Wikimedia Foundation announced their first collaborative video experiment. Since then, incremental improvements have been released, but the deployment of TimedMediaHandler is the most significant achievement to date. (more…)

1 million media files uploaded using Upload Wizard

In May 2011, we announced a new way to share pictures, sounds, and video: the Upload Wizard. A year later, Upload Wizard has been used to upload more than 1 million freely licensed media files and has contributed to an acceleration of growth of the Wikimedia Commons community.

Countering the decline in retention of new contributors to Wikipedia, the number of contributors to Wikimedia Commons (individuals who make at least one upload) grew by about 25% from March 2011 to March 2012, compared with ~12% in the prior year. We attribute this growth primarily to two factors: the introduction of the Upload Wizard, and the successful “Wiki Loves Monuments” competition in September 2011, highlighted on the graph below.

Wikimedia Commons uploader statistics 2011-2012.png