Using MediaWiki does not make you an encyclopedia

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
(English) This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.

A number of commentators[1][2][3] not familiar with the details of and distinctions between MediaWiki, Wikimedia and Wikipedia have concluded from the use of MediaWiki software by a wide variety of websites that they are somehow "imitating Wikipedia", "cloning Wikipedia" or are attempting to build an encyclopedia to compete with Wikipedia. They have suggested that people doing this are being somewhat hubristic or self-aggrandising in believing that their point of view "deserves" its own encyclopedia.

This conclusion may be correct, but it is not correct for the reasons they believe. Using MediaWiki doesn't mean you are trying to be Wikipedia, nor does it mean you are endorsed by the Wikipedia community, or by the Wikimedia Foundation. MediaWiki, the software used for Wikimedia projects including Wikipedia, is free software and can be used by anyone. The visual themes that come installed by default with MediaWiki have been used on Wikipedia by default (specifically Monobook and Vector). Using those themes does not mean you are 'imitating' Wikipedia. It is a commonly available set of layouts that can be used freely. Many blogging services like Tumblr, Wordpress and Blogspot provide default templates too.

MediaWiki comes set up to use Vector—the default theme of Wikimedia projects including Wikipedia—by default. Creating a site that "looks like Wikipedia" is very easy. Creating it to not look like Wikipedia is much harder. Please try to avoid concluding that a site is Wikipedia or is attempting to ape Wikipedia because it uses the same software as Wikipedia.

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