Wikidata: the next step for Wikipedia and more

Wikidata will facilitate knowledge sharing between Wikipedias - and the world.

The worldwide Wikimedia movement

It is nearly impossible to navigate the internet these days without stumbling upon Wikipedia at some point.  Wikipedia is part of the world-wide Wikimedia movement. It is a community where people gather to create an encyclopaedia - and more.  The community is striving to provide everyone with free access to the sum of all human knowledge.  The work on all Wikimedia projects depends on volunteers collecting knowledge and writing articles in more than 280 languages.

Taking Wikipedia to the next level

In April a team of 12 people started working for a year at the German chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation (Wikimedia Deutschland) to build what they hope will take Wikipedia to the next level. Wikimedia Deutschland e.V. is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the dissemination of free knowledge.  It was founded in 2004 and has been supporting the diverse Wikimedia projects (such as Wikipedia) ever since.  Like its fellow Wikimedia projects, Wikipedia is independent, advertising-free and entirely based on volunteer contributions and donations.  The team is working on the foundation of Wikidata. The idea for Wikidata has been floating around since at least 2005 and is now finally becoming a reality with the support of donations by [AI]², the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Google, Inc.

Wikidata - a knowledgebase for Wikipedias

Wikidata will become a free knowledge base for the Wikipedias - and the world.  It will be a collection of statements that can be used by the Wikipedias and third parties.  For example, Wikidata may include the date of birth of a person of public interest; the number of inhabitants of a large city or the height of an important building.

Editors will be able to collect this information and their sources.  The Wikipedias and others will then be able to access this data and automatically use it in their articles.

The initial development is split into three phases.

Phase one - centralisation of the language links in Wikipedia.  These are the links that link to articles about the same topic in other languages in the sidebar of Wikipedia articles.  These are currently stored in each article in each language. Wikidata's goal is to reduce this duplication.

Phase two - enable editors to fill in 'infoboxes'.  These infoboxes in articles display some basic information about the subject, automatically using data from Wikidata.

Phase three - enable automatic generation of lists.  For example, a list of US presidents.  Currently the Wikipedias have lots of lists and they are all created manually in each of the different language editions.  

All in all Wikidata aims to support the Wikipedias by providing a way for the different languages to share data and the research work needed to collect them. Thereby it will help remove a lot of duplication and support especially smaller language editions which only have limited manpower and can then benefit from the work done in larger Wikipedias. In addition Wikidata aims to give access to this large community-curated knowledge base to third parties who can then build on it.

This is an exciting time for the Wikimedia movement. Why not join and be a part of it?

Lydia Pintscher studied computer science at the University of Karlsruhe.  She works for Wikimedia Germany on the Wikidata project.

Picture courtesy of @bastique via Flickr.