Wikimedia Draft Statement of Principles Regarding Software Use

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This is a draft; edits or suggestions are welcome.

The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is "to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop neutral educational content under a free content license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally." To the extent that this goal is accomplished using computer programs (software), the use of software which cannot be freely acquired and distributed has the potential to significantly limit people's access to knowledge and ability to participate in its development. Thus the Foundation strive to follow several key principles in their use of software in the operation of their projects:

  1. Content distributed by the Wikimedia Foundation should not have direct dependencies[1] on proprietary software[2] on the user's system.
  2. Full participation in projects operated by the Wikimedia Foundation should not require the use of any proprietary software on the user's system.
  3. Creating a functionally equivalent copy ("mirror") of a project operated by the Wikimedia Foundation should not require the use of proprietary software by the third party creating the copy.
  4. In all the scenarios above, dependencies on software which implement mechanisms covered by software patents (even if the implementation itself is not "proprietary") should be avoided, especially when there is a history of enforcement of said patents.

These principles are meant to be interpreted based on the day-to-day needs and operational priorities of the Foundation. They are put into policy practice by the Foundation's staff, especially the technical team.


  1. A "direct dependency" is given when a copy of the content cannot be rendered or modified by a user using available open source software without a prior conversion to another format.
  2. Software is considered proprietary if its licensing status does not meet the terms of the Open Source Definition.