How to become a MediaWiki hacker
If you are an experienced developer who is familiar with using MediaWiki already, visit the Developer hub instead.
This page should help you get started on the path to becoming a contributor to MediaWiki. It is not a tutorial; it just points you to various places where you can go learn whatever is necessary.
Most projects use Git and Gerrit. Start by registering for Developer access and reading the Gerrit tutorial. 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 (vagrant), or manual.
Virtual Machine with Vagrant
- Vagrant installation - These steps will install MediaWiki server with all the requirements inside a Linux virtual machine (can be used on Linux, Windows, or Mac hosts)
- Installation requirements — Check hardware requirements, and install a LAMP, MAMP or WAMP server (Linux, Mac or Windows, plus Apache, MySQL/MariaDB and PHP).
- 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.
It's not necessary to download Wikipedia database dumps in order to develop MediaWiki features. In fact, in many cases it's easier to use a near-empty database with a few specially-crafted test pages. However, if for some reason you want to have a copy of Wikipedia, you can get a dump.
If you choose to work on a bug report that requires writing or changing code:
- The main path to get started with MediaWiki development is to contribute to a Wikimedia project that offers mentoring. An alternative without mentoring is to fix an annoying little bug in the existing code.
- In most cases when working with MediaWiki, you do not want to hack MediaWiki core unless you really know what you're doing.
Feedback, questions and support
- You are expected to do some basic research yourself first: Look at the code, try to get some understanding what it is supposed to do, read related documentation, try to find the probable place(s) where you need to make changes in order to fix the bug.
- If you have general questions about infrastructure, the software architecture or workflows which are not tied to the specific bug that you want to work on, use generic channels like IRC, mailing lists, or wiki discussion pages. For example, if you have a problem with Gerrit, the Gerrit discussion page could be a good place to ask.
- If you have a specific question about the bug itself, comment in the corresponding bug report (normally a task in Phabricator). "What do I have to do to fix this bug?" is not a good question to start with: The more specific your questions are, the more likely somebody can answer them quickly. If you have no idea at all how to fix the bug, maybe that bug is not (yet) for you - please consider finding an easier one first.
- When asking, elaborate what you have tried and found out already, so others can help at the right level. Try to be specific - for example, copy and paste your commands and their output (if not too long) instead of paraphrasing in your own words. This avoids misunderstandings.
- Avoid private email or support requests in our social media channels.
- Please be patient when seeking input and comments. On IRC, don't ask to ask, just ask: most questions can be answered by other community members too if you ask on an IRC channel. If nobody answers, please ask on the bug report or wiki page related to the problem; don't just drop the question.
- Learn more at Communication.
- You can ask at the weekly Technical Advice IRC Meeting on #wikimedia-tech
Communicate that you work on a bug
You do not need to ask if you can work on a bug. You do not need to be set as the assignee in a bug report or announce your plans before you start working on a bug, but it would be welcome. At the latest when you are close to creating a patch for the bug, it is good to announce in a comment that you are working on it. Your announcement also helps others to not work on the bug at the same time and duplicate work.
Also note that if a bug report already has a recent link to a patch in Gerrit and has the project "Patch-For-Review" associated, you should choose a different bug to work on instead - avoid duplicating work. If the patch in Gerrit has not been merged and has not seen any changes for a long time, you could also pick up that existing patch and try to improve it.
If you stop working on a task you should remove yourself as the assignee of a bug report and reset the assignee to the default assignee, so others know that they can work on the bug report and don't expect you to still work on it.
By communicating early you will get more attention, feedback and help from community members.
Working on extensions
If you choose to work on MediaWiki extensions code, the following links provide more information.
- MediaWiki extensions primers
- MediaWiki extensions resources
- Best practices for extensions
- List of simple extensions — A simple way to become more familiar with how extensions work.
- 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.
- Special page template — Add a special page to display some handy information.
- Extending wiki markup — Add a parser hook to modify the content of wikitext.
The following sections describe a few example areas in which you can contribute, but you are not limited to these areas!
In the upper right corner of a task (bug report) in Phabricator you can see the product and component that the problem is located in. This provides you a hint about the Git repository that the code is located in, and about the development team which you could contact if you want to discuss it in a "broader" way (as comments in bug reports should preferably refer to the specific problem described in the report only).
There are numerous applications for mobile devices (Android, iOS, Windows Phone, …) to access Wikimedia wikis. Read the general development information and ask your questions on the Mobile mailing list and the #wikimedia-mobile IRC channel.
The reading team builds the software that serves our readers. We also manage the mobile web experience. Read the general development information and ask your questions on the Mobile mailing list and the #wikimedia-mobile IRC channel.
Wikidata is a centralized knowledge base for structured data, such as interwiki references and statistical information. Ask your general development questions on the Wikidata mailing list, the #wikidata IRC channel and on the wiki.
Huggle is a desktop application for dealing with vandalism on Wikimedia projects, written in C++.
Browser Tests & Quality Assurance
Automated browser tests help Wikimedia engineers produce quality user facing software faster. See the page on Browser testing for more on what technologies we use and how to get involved. For more general information, see Quality Assurance.
Language Engineering (Localization/Translation/Internationalization)
VisualEditor and Parsoid
Discovery / Search
The Discovery team builds the path of anonymous discovery to a trusted and relevant source of knowledge. Ask your general development questions on the Discovery mailing list and on the #wikimedia-discovery IRC channel.
Fixing design bugs or requests requires existing graphics skills working with a Vector graphics application (e.g. Inkscape). Basic knowledge of CSS can also be helpful for integration. Ask your general development questions on the Design mailing list and the #wikimedia-design IRC channel.
Skins allow users to customize the look and feel of MediaWiki. Basic knowledge of CSS and PHP is helpful. Check the project page in Phabricator for more information on each skin and contact information.
System messages and localization/translation problems
System messages in MediaWiki or its extensions often need small corrections to the English text, but the source text can only be changed in the code by developers, contrary to translations. This has grown into a large backlog of usually very easy fixes (which might be as easy as fixing a typo).
Also, many messages are unclear and require better documentation (see Localisation#Message documentation).
Missing documentation can also be added by just editing the
/qqq subpage of the message on translatewiki.net, like all translations, but may require some study of the code to understand what a message is for: it's therefore optimal to start understanding the code, and very useful for the translators (who do not have such skills).
- List of open string change bug reports and enhancement requests (under "Blocked by")
MediaWiki is the core software which provides basic wiki functionality. It is complex, written in PHP, and some areas might not have clear maintainership. Ask your general development questions on the wikitech mailing list and the #wikimedia-dev and #mediawiki IRC channels.
Phabricator is used by Wikimedia for project management, software bug reporting and feature requests. Phlogiston is a set of SQL, Python, and R scripts to report on Phabricator data, particularly burnup reports and forecasting.
Semantic MediaWiki is one of the biggest and most popular MediaWiki extensions.
Maps is a popular MediaWiki extension that allows for, amongst other things, embedding of dynamic maps into wiki pages
And many more…
Still not enough ideas? There are more fields you can explore - MediaWiki has hundreds of extensions and tools! Check out the complete list of bugs recommended for new contributors:
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.
- 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 are constrained to a small region of code.
- MediaWiki primers 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.
- Intro-to-MediaWiki workshop syllabus — Ways to hack MediaWiki, from user preferences to extensions and core.
- Code documentation — 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.