How to become a MediaWiki hacker
This article is written to help developers learn the basic skills needed to contribute to development of MediaWiki core and MediaWiki extensions.
If you are an experienced developer who is familiar with using MediaWiki already, visit the Developer hub instead.
For other ways to get involved in the Wikimedia community, see How to contribute.
MediaWiki is the software that powers Wikipedia, its sister projects and thousands of wikis all over the world.
- Development discussion happens on Phabricator, Mailing lists, and IRC channels. The main developer list is wikitech-l. The main developer IRC channels are connect and connect.
- Source code is stored on Gerrit and managed using the Git revision control system and can be viewed here
- Code review is performed on Gerrit and can be viewed here. Follow this tutorial to set up Git and Gerrit in order to submit patches.
- Bug reports and feature requests are filed, and projects are coordinated on Phabricator and can be viewed here
Set up your development environment
You can install and develop MediaWiki on Linux, Windows, or macOS using any of the three solutions below.
Most projects use Git and Gerrit. Follow the Gerrit tutorial to set up your developer account. Then you can move on to downloading our code, making changes, testing them, and submitting patches. There are two ways to set up your development environment: using a pre-configured virtual machine setup (Docker or Vagrant), or a manual configuration approach.
You can also try the experimental mwcli tool which sets up Docker with a few simple commands and provides basic orchestration functionality for MediaWiki Docker containers. With this you can easily add extensions and features to your container.
If you run it from Windows, Docker shares files between your Windows filesystem and the container filesystem. This can cause MediaWiki to be very slow if you are using WSL2 based engine, due to the poor performance of its shared directory implementation. If you have Windows Pro, you can switch to the Hyper-V backend in the settings of Docker Desktop for better filesystem performance.
An even faster way to run MediaWiki using Docker in Windows (speeds comparable to manually installing) is to clone MediaWiki and run Docker inside WSL (or install and run
mwcli inside of WSL).
That way there is no shared filesystem overhead.
To develop the MediaWiki codebase that is inside the Docker container you can establish a remote connection to it and open the MediaWiki WSL folder in that is in the container using VSCode or PhpStorm.
Vagrant allows you start a MediaWiki instance you can develop as well as allowing you to add and develop any of 250+ extensions - all with a single command. This saves you installation and configuration time compared to manually installing. It runs faster than Docker on Windows, however slower than Docker on WSL or manually installing.
MediaWiki can be developed by installing it natively on your system and editing its code. Installing it natively means it will run faster than Docker or Vagrant, but it will take more time to configure.
- Installation requirements — Check hardware requirements and install dependencies
- Download from Git — Download the latest source code from Git.
- Installation guide — Continue with the installation and initial configuration.
- Set up the various debug modes in your environment to display warning and errors early.
Communication tips and guidelines
Follow these tips to communicate effectively and get help from community members.
Use Phabricator tasks effectively
When you plan to work on a Phabricator task:
- No need to ask for permission: You can work on unassigned tasks without asking someone to assign them to you. There is no authority who assigns tasks or who needs to be asked first.
- If a task already has a recent patch in Gerrit, choose a different task to work on instead.
- If an existing patch in Gerrit has not been merged and has not seen any changes for a long time, you could improve that existing patch, based on the feedback in Gerrit and in the task.
- Do your research: When you consider working on a task, do research before you start coding. Look at the code, try to understand what it is supposed to do, read related documentation, and try to find the places where you need to make code changes.
- In a Phabricator task, use the project tags in the side bar to find the code repository for the task.
- If you have no idea at all how to fix the bug, consider finding an easier one first.
- You do not need to announce your plans before you start working on a task, but you should communicate that you are working on the task.
- When you start work, set yourself as task assignee by clicking Edit Task… in Phabricator, and set your Phabricator username in the Assigned To field. This communicates to others that you are working on it, so they don't duplicate work.
- When your plans or interests change: If you are no longer working on a task, remove yourself as the assignee of the task. This tells others that they can work on the task, and they won't expect you to still work on it.
- Follow Phabricator etiquette.
- In Phabricator tasks, discuss only specific questions about the topic of that task. Don't use Phabricator to ask general questions, like how to set up a development environment or how to fix problems with Gerrit.
Compose good questions
- Don't ask to ask...just ask!.
- Be specific and provide context: Instead of simply asking "Can you give me more info?", "Please guide me", or "Please tell me how to start", include the following information in your question:
- What are you trying to achieve?
- What have you already tried? Copy and paste your commands and their output (if not too long) instead of paraphrasing in your own words.
- What have you found out already during your research? Include links to code, documentation, or other resources you already consulted.
- Use specific titles and subject lines in your communication. "Proposal draft" or "Need help" is not specific.
- Keep conversations readable: When you reply in Zulip, in Phabricator tasks, or on mailing lists, only quote sections of previous comments that are relevant to your response. If you quote a complete previous comment, it makes threads hard to read.
Follow communication policies and best practices
Before you send or post your question:
- Read and follow the code of conduct for Wikimedia technical spaces.
- Use Inclusive language: Instead of using terms that assume a gender identity (like "guys", "madam", or "sir") use the name of the person instead.
Ask in the right place
- Ask in public: Do not send private messages if your conversation topic is not secret. Private messages don't help others.
- Ask and discuss in the best place:
- In Phabricator tasks, discuss only specific questions about the topic of that task.
- Ask general technical questions, like how to set up a development environment or how to fix problems with Gerrit, in the places listed on Communication.
- If you take part in an outreach program, then Zulip is for discussing questions about the outreach programs themselves.
After you post your question:
- Do not ask people for code review in a separate message. People receive Gerrit and Phabricator notifications and will respond when they can.
- When seeking input and comments, especially during weekends and holidays, you may need to wait until business hours resume. On chat channels like IRC: if nobody answers, try again at a different time; don't just give up!
- If you don't get an answer even after waiting and being patient, consider if other Communication channels might be a better place to ask your question.
MediaWiki is written in PHP, so you'll need to get familiar with PHP to hack MediaWiki's core.
- Learn PHP
- PHP resources
- Stuff to know
- The script
maintenance/eval.phpin MediaWiki provides a basic PHP interpreter with MediaWiki objects and classes loaded.
- Also, the script
maintenance/shell.phpin MediaWiki is a replacement of
maintenance/eval.phpbased on PsySH, see Manual:Shell.php
- The script
Many features require some amount of database manipulation, so you'll often need to be familiar with MySQL/MariaDB.
- MySQL/MariaDB resources
- Stuff to know
- Test your code with MySQL/MariaDB.
- MediaWiki currently uses MySQL and MariaDB as the primary database back-end. It also supports other DBMSes, such as PostgreSQL and SQLite. However, almost all developers use MySQL/MariaDB and don't test other DBs, which consequently break on a regular basis. You're therefore advised to use MySQL/MariaDB when testing patches, unless you're specifically trying to improve support for another DB. In the latter case, make sure you're careful not to break MySQL/MariaDB (or write queries that are horribly inefficient in it), since MySQL/MariaDB is what everybody else uses.
- Test your code with MySQL/MariaDB.
The MediaWiki code base is large and some parts are ugly; don't be overwhelmed by it. When you're first starting off, aim to write features or fix bugs which only touch a small region of code.
- MediaWiki basics and must-reads
- MediaWiki resources
- Manual:Code — A list of important files and links to more detailed information.
- Manual:Hooks — A list of hooks. If you're trying to find what part of the codebase does something, often a good place to start is by searching for the related hooks.
- Manual:Coding conventions — An overview of general coding conventions within the MediaWiki community.
- Code documentation (class reference) — Automatically generated documentation from the code and code comments.
- Manual:How to debug — A guide to debugging MediaWiki.
- Manual:Eval.php — A tool to interact with MediaWiki objects live.
If you choose to work on MediaWiki extensions code, the following links provide more information.
- MediaWiki extensions basics
- MediaWiki extensions resources
- Best practices for extensions
- A brief introduction to MediaWiki extension development — A video presentation about how to create a MediaWiki extension (slides).
- Making a MediaWiki extension — Covers how to develop an extension for MediaWiki, best practices, and how to engage the MediaWiki community. From February 2011.
- Help for extension developers on the Developer Hub
Manual:How to make a MediaWiki skin is helpful if you choose to work on MediaWiki skins.
- Search for code across repositories
- Developer hub – When you've thoroughly read the information in this article, it's time to move on to the information in the developer hub.
- Code of Conduct
- MediaWiki runs on most platforms that can support PHP, however, the lack of certain utilities or operating system features may limit the functionality or performance of MediaWiki on non-LAMP platforms.
- MediaWiki has support for DBMS other than MySQL and MariaDB, including PostgreSQL, SQLite
- Developers are a mix of volunteers and paid staff (or contractors) for various organizations. For a full list of who works on the MediaWiki code, read the Developers article.
- Browse the source code and revisions of code repositories at https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/diffusion/ or download the source code to your system by using Gerrit.