Universal Language Selector/Announcement Jan2014

Universal Language Selector — Announcement

Checkbox to enable ULS from User Preference.

Universal Language Selector — the MediaWiki extension that presents unified configuration options for language features, was disabled (not removed) on several Wikimedia wikis as a temporary workaround to resolve performance problems. This extension provides users with input methods, webfonts, and cross-language features that enhance the internationalization experience on multi-lingual wikis. The Universal Language Selector uses several JavaScript libraries to provide these functionalities.

The decision to disable the extension was taken by the Platform performance team to prevent performance degradation, particularly due to the process of delivery of web fonts. This is currently being reworked. At present, ULS is disabled by default, but users can enable it from User Preferences. (see image).



Non-availability of ULS by default will impact several functionalities:

  1. Input Methods — users could edit wiki pages in non-Latin languages using more than 60 input methods available through ULS; this features was available for logged-out users as well. Users will now have to log-in (and create an account if they don't have one), enable ULS to get the input methods back;
  2. Webfonts — several non-Latin language wikis relied on the webfonts provided by ULS for displaying content. For instance, Lao, Burmese, Divehi, Javanese and other languages for which fonts are not widely available. Text in these wikis may now be displayed as squares(aka tofu) for many users;
  3. Accessibility — OpenDyslexic font is part of the ULS font library. The absence of the font will impact users with specific need for this font;
  4. Language Selection and cross-language search will be disabled; however the preferred language for the user interface can still be selected in the preferences (or defined and kept by appending the parameter ?setlang=language-code to the URL of a visited wiki page, or temporarily for the current page only with the parameter ?uselang=language-code);
  5. Page Translation — Users looking to translate pages on several wikis may not be able to select the language to translate to.

Next Steps


This disabling is not permanent and ULS will be back as soon as the latency problems are fixed. We are not yet in a position to declare what will be the final shape of the ULS features after the rework. Our priority now is to bring back the input methods and other features for regular use, while we continue work on addressing the problems with webfont delivery.

We recommend users to let us know (preferably via Bugzilla) of severe impact on individual wikis for which we can recommend corrective measures.

Q. I don’t see the gear icon that made the language settings dialog appear.
A. You don’t see the gear icon because the extension that displayed the language settings dialog has been temporarily disabled by default in most Wikimedia wikis. The Universal Language Selector extension caused some performance issues that made wiki pages load slowly. To correct this problem the extension was disabled. However, it has not been removed and you can still enable it from your user preferences to get back all functionalities.
Q. Has ULS been removed forever?
A. It has not be removed at all; but temporarily disabled. You can enable it after you log in to the wiki and select the “Enable the Universal Language Selector” checkbox (see the image above).
Q. What particular performance issues was ULS causing?
A. ULS provides web fonts for several languages. However, only some of them are enabled by default. This is the case for languages:
  1. where mature fonts to support the script do not exist widely across native systems;
  2. the language communities have specifically requested for these fonts to be enabled.
It has been observed that automatic loading of fonts was adding to the page overhead in some cases.
We encourage you to read why we think making web fonts available is an important feature of ULS.
Q. Will all the ULS features be now available only for logged-in users?
A. If the Wiki does not have ULS enabled then only logged-in users will be able to use the ULS features. This is not permanent and features available for non-logged-in users will be brought back at the earliest.
Q. When do we get the input methods back?
A. It is our priority to enable input methods as well as the other features for regular use as soon as we can.
Q. What changes will be made to ULS while it remains disabled by default?
A. It is too early to predict the exact changes that will be made on ULS. However, we expect the following things to happen first:
  1. ULS will be re-enabled, but with automatic font loading disabled by default;
  2. Users will be able to enable automatic font loading from user preferences.
Q. Without default webfonts I see boxes instead of text and I cannot find the checkbox to enable ULS. What should I do?
A. Unfortunately this is a result of ULS not being available by default to serve you the web fonts that would have made the boxes go away. This may also mean that the operating system or the browser you are using is not ready to support the text. We recommend that you check if a font is available that can support the language on your operating system and browser natively. If you still do not see text correctly please head over to Bugzilla and report the problem.