- For a newer version of this page, see Wikidata:Wikidata:Introduction.
Wikidata is a new project for the Wikimedia Foundation: a free, collaborative, multilingual, secondary database, collecting structured data to provide support for Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, the other Wikimedia projects, and well beyond that.
What does this mean?
Let's look at the opening statement in more detail:
- A new project. Wikidata is the first new Wikimedia project since the inception of Wikiversity in 2006. The proposal for Wikidata has previously been presented to the Wikimedia communities, and has received extremely positive feedback.
- Free. The data in Wikidata is published under a free license, allowing the reuse of the data in many different scenarios.
- Collaborative. The data in Wikidata will be entered and maintained by Wikidata editors, who decide on the rules of content creation in Wikidata.
- Multilingual. Editing, consuming, browsing, and reusing the content will be fully multilingual. Data entered in any language will immediately be available in all other languages; editing in any language will be possible and encouraged.
- A secondary database. Wikidata will record not just statements, but their sources, thus reflecting the diversity of knowledge available and supporting the notion of verifiability.
- Collecting structured data. Unlike Commons, which collects media files, and the Wikipedias, which produce encyclopedic articles, Wikidata will collect data, in a structured form. This will allow easy reuse of that data by Wikimedia projects and third parties, and will enable computers to easily process and “understand” it.
- Support for Wikimedia projects. One of the first goals of Wikidata is to support Wikipedia with better maintainable language links and infoboxes, thus reducing the workload in Wikipedia and increasing its quality.
- Support well beyond that. Everyone will be able to use Wikidata for a huge number of different services.
So, what does this mean?
Many Wikipedia articles contain facts and connections to other articles that are not easily understood by a computer, like the population of a country or the place of birth of an actor. In Wikidata you'll be able to enter that information in a way that makes it processable by the computer: the machine will be capable of providing it in different languages, using it to create overviews of data such as lists and charts, and answering questions that are currently difficult to answer automatically.
For this, Wikidata will provide an interface that is different from a wiki that allows you to edit text, like Wikipedia; Wikidata will provide a form-based interface that will help you to enter data in a way that can be further processed, either on-wiki or independently.
What's the plan for making this happen?
The German chapter of Wikimedia started working on the project in April 2012; our plan is to have the initial development finished within a year. Our first step will be to enable you to bring the language links into the Wikidata central repository, and then to use these from the Wikipedias. We hope this goal will be reached in the northern summer of 2012.
After that, we will work on the interfaces for entering data. We will gradually improve the system and increase the possibilities to express data (e.g. enable time-dependent data, uncertain data, etc.). We are fully aware that representing knowledge is very hard, and we will move step by step towards achieving a pragmatic ground that is usable under many circumstances. What will this look like? We do not know yet, but we are sure it will be an interesting ride.
That sounds cool. How can I help?
Thanks for your interest! Wikidata can only be a success if there is a critical mass of contributors to the project. We are aware that very different communities are interested in the work of Wikidata. The best way for now to keep up-to-date and to participate in discussions is to subscribe to the Wikidata mailing list.
If you already want to add data, please be patient! This functionality will be developed in the northern autumn and early winter 2012. If you have large quantities of data you want to donate to the project, you need to be even more patient, as Wikidata will need a working community before it can handle and integrate such donations.
If you want to use the data from Wikidata, again you need to be patient. Only when we have a working community will we have an interesting data set. We want to ensure that the data will be available in a number of standard formats, so that you can reuse them as easily as possible.
If you are a developer, you can already read our technical proposal. We started our development work in April 2012, and it will all be performed openly, so everyone can keep up with our coding and other work. Looking for concrete ideas? The optional packages in the technical description might be helpful, but they should be regarded as mere ideas. Feel free to go further.
At the same time, please note that Wikidata is being developed to a tight schedule, and actually has a limited mission. There is a lot of things Wikidata will not do, for now. Wikidata is our first step into a future where Wikimedia will support structured data well beyond what it does today. We hope you'll join us on this journey.