Communications committee/Subcommittees/Press/PR/2006/05/30/SUL

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Informal article[edit]

Easier logins coming! Wikimedia Foundation works to integrate languages, projects.

The Wikimedia Foundation announced a long-discussed change to the family of free content projects will soon be installed, bringing a change to the way users can work in different languages and projects. The Wikimedia Foundation supports 6 primary projects; Wikibooks, Wikinews, Wikipedia, Wikiquote, Wikisource, and Wiktionary each of which are available in many languages - more than 200 languages in Wikipedia, the largest project. Contributors who are working in more than one language or more than one project have, until now, created a new account on each site where they contribute.

What it is[edit]

Single user login plans to simplify their ability to work on more than just a single site by making their one user account available to them on all the projects and languages.

The concept has been around a long time, by Wiki standards. Serious work on developing a method of doing it began in late 2004 and early 2005, and after two recent updates to the MediaWiki software developers have focused their attention on this enterprise-wide modification.

"There are two parts to it," said Brion Vibber, Chief Technology Officer of the Foundation. "The first is merging the user accounts: this will mean you have a single account for all Wikimedia Foundation wiki sites. The second part, only having to click 'login' once, should come later."

Most usernames across the 600+ websites are unique, and will be completely unaffected by this move. A fraction of 1% of usernames, however, exist on more than one wiki and a process has been created to sort them out. "In most cases the transition should be painless, and where it's painful we'll try to minimize it," said Mr Vibber.

When and how[edit]

The first part of this plan is being scheduled to begin in late spring. There will be several steps involved, beginning with preventing creation of conflicting usernames; sometime in May users will be prevented from creating an account with a username that already exists on one of the other websites.

As soon as this is implemented an automated process will sort through the usernames on all sites, finding the large majority of users which are unique and immediately getting them installed in the single user tables. Names which have potential conflicts are sorted to match e-mail addresses, and where all matches are made they are installed as well. The small number of remaining accounts are marked as "unattached", and when the account is logged into the next time they will be asked to clarify the account, or to rename the account.

After a transitional period there may be an automated process to force renames of remaining unattached accounts - some accounts may be forgotten, or even malicious - but the exact details have not been worked out as yet.

In what way does this affect me?[edit]

For more than 99% of accounts there will be no visible change, except they can now go to any Wikimedia site and immediately log in using their account name and password even if they've never been to that particular site previously.

This does not mean a user's preferences will be the same on every site, or that a user who is an admin on one site will be an admin on another site. The only information which will be shared among all the projects is the account name and its password. If you want your signature on wiktionary to be different from your signature on wikipedia you will need to edit the user preferences on each site. And account's permissions, such as bureaucrat or admin, is set by the site and not affected by this change.


About the Wikimedia Foundation[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization in the United States which supports the free sharing of knowledge. It supports many projects to do so, including

With more than 600 sites and nearly 4 million total articles spread across 200 plus languages, the Wikimedia Foundation represents the largest single collection of online content. Wikipedia itself is one of the most popular internet sites on the planet, consistently ranking in the top 25 websites in the world.

The Foundation is donation supported, and run by volunteers.

Transcript of interview with Brion[edit]

30 April 2006, #Wikimedia-tech

<Amgine>    How are you doing?
<brion>	    heyyy
<brion>	    if that was your first question i think this interview is in trouble
            ;)
<robchurch> Do we get to listen in on the Brion interview?
<robchurch> Ooooh, oooh - can we heckle from the back?
<brion>	    *sobs*
<Amgine>    I always interview in channel if I can... <waggles finger at 
            robchurch> behave!
<robchurch> Heckle the journalist, brion.
<robchurch> The journalist.
<robchurch> We can't heckle brion.
<Amgine>    <the journalist who can't figure out how to get this bleeping 
            software to log>
<robchurch> What client?
<Amgine>    chatzilla
<brion>	    hehe
<brion>	    just take a screenshot every once in a while
<robchurch> I'll send you the log when it's done, if you like.
<Amgine>    <grin> I'd appreciate robchurch.
<Amgine>    brion: anytime you're ready?
<brion>	    ask away
<Amgine>    Single user login will allow users to log in once to any Wikimedia 
            Foundation site and they will be logged into any/all of them they 
            might visit, right?
<brion>	    well, there's two parts to it.
<brion>	    the first is merging the user accounts: this will mean you have a 
            single account for all Wikimedia Foundation wiki sites
<brion>	    so you only have to create an account once, and don't have to worry 
            about having a different password, or if someone stole your username 
            to make fun of you
<brion>	    the second part, only having to click 'login' once, should come 
            later
<Amgine>    <nods> There is a page on meta 
            <http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Single_login_specifications> which 
            describes a series of stages for the implementation. While it's a 
            very nice explanation, it may have zero relevance to what is 
            actually going to happen. Have you looked at this page? is it at all
            related to what is happening/will happen?
<brion>	    that description is a little old, but much of the basics are still 
            the plan. i've got some working notes in source control if you're 
            interested
<brion>     http://svn.wikimedia.org/viewvc/mediawiki/trunk/CentralAuth/evil-plans.txt
<Amgine>    Great!
<Amgine>    The biggest question on everyone's mind is of course when, and I 
            know the answer is "it'll happen when it happens." The next question
            though is where. Will this be rolled out on a project basis, for 
            example just single login on Wikipedia?
<Amgine>    (probably answered by the evil plans.txt)
<brion>	    i expect it to poof into existence everywhere at once.
<Amgine>    <nods>
<brion>	    it's _possible_ that we'll go with a 'grace period' where you can 
            continue to use old, conflicting accounts for a few days before they 
            have to be merged or renamed. but i'm not sure about that yet.
<brion>	    for most people, it should be totally automatic -- just log in and 
            it's as if you've always had this account everywhere.
<Amgine>    Good, that's my next question: One concern being expressed is what 
            will happen with username conflicts. Some users are asking if a tool 
            will be made available to find out if their username has a conflict, 
            to give them time to work out an agreement with others who have the 
            same username or to request their username be moved. In short, will 
            there be an opportunity for users to resolve username conflicts 
            during the implementation?
<brion>	    for some people, they'll have to go through a one-time check of some 
            of their other accounts.
<robchurch> For the rest, it'll be a large "HAHA, YOU LOSE - SUCKER!" thing. 
            Like the OBOD.
<brion>	    :)
<brion>	    due to the way we store passwords it's hard to tell where conflicts 
            actually are.
<Amgine>    But users know what sites they are active on.
<brion>	    i've done a preliminary check on the database which shows that only 
            about 1% of accounts can't be automatically resolved before login; 
            but even more will be automatically resolved when the user logs in 
            and their password is available.
<brion>     i might be able to make a "pre-check" though, and will see about 
            setting that up.
<Amgine>    Will a list of sites where a username is used be posted? a tool to 
            locate others?
<Amgine>    Ah, you answered that.
<brion>     basically that's part of the migration process, so checking early 
            will spread things out a bit over time. :)
<brion>	    a change from my original plan but it should be possible, yes.
<Amgine>    The how is something comcom doesn't need, really, but do you want to 
            comment on it?
<brion>	    the exact implementation isn't quite there yet, but basically some 
            more database tables :)
<Amgine>    Is there anything *you* would like spread to the projects about 
            this?
<brion>     "remain calm. the situation is under control." :)
<brion>     in most cases the transition should be painless, and where it's 
            painful we'll try to minimize it
<brion>     and it'll be much nicer after to pop over to commons to upload an 
            image
<Amgine>    How about to the media around the world? (yes, we're planning an 
            international press release about this.)
* dammit    kicks all press releasers
<Amgine>    <dodges>
<brion>     *zmog*
<brion>     lesse what did i say before something like...
<brion>	    "This will allow us to improve the user experience and in the future 
            better integrate with other web services through external 
            authentication services such as OpenID."
<brion>	    or some such rubbish
<Amgine>    <wants to include the rubbish line>
<brion>     [oh and if you want my slides from my presentaitons last week, i'm 
            uploading now]
<brion>     [didn't talk that much about sul but it got mentioned]
<Amgine>    One late entry to the question field: Will users be able to have 
            different user preferences on different sites? for example, 
            different signatures on rtl vs ltr languages?
<Amgine>    Do you have a page with all your presentations?
<brion>	    yes. for the initial period preferences will remain separate for 
            each wiki. we'll want to think about how to combine them in a way 
            that's both easy and flexible, since we know that people do often 
            want slightly different settings.
<brion>     permissions also remain distinct: a sysop on one wikipedia doesn't 
            necessarily have any special privilege on another language or site.
<gurch>     brion: at the moment, some preferences are only available on some 
            wikis?
<gurch>     brion: which may make combining them harder
<Wiki_Lp>   localization is also very uneven, so the same ui language would not 
            always mean gatting the same resutls
<brion>     Amgine: http://leuksman.com/pages/Presentations
<brion>     gurch, Wiki_Lp: exactly :)
<phr>       what about usernames, especially for non-latin alphabets? like, if 
            yurik's account on ru: is in cyrillic, would he ahave to use the same 
            cyrillic username on en:?
<brion>     people already use such usernames :)
<Amgine>    Brion: I just have my final standard question: is there anything I 
            should have asked which I didn't?
<robchurch> hahah!
<Platonides>    and what about the 'you have new messages' ?
<brion>     Platonides: there's been some work on combined-multiple-wiki message 
            notification at wikia, we may adapt that.
<Platonides>    would that be common for all wikis?
<Amgine>    Thanks brion: and thanks for th elinks too!
<brion>     enjoy!