Introducing Wikifunctions: first Wikimedia project to launch in a decade creates new forms of knowledge

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A “function” is a sequence of programming instructions that makes a calculation based on data provided. Internet users most commonly encounter functions when entering queries on search engines, such as the time difference between two cities, the distance between two locations, or the volume of an object. Functions operate behind-the-scenes to produce answers to these queries. For the first time, Wikifunctions will provide a library of functions that everyone, everywhere can access and contribute to. 

Notably, these functions can exist in any language; therefore, for many Wikifunctions users, this will be the first project where they can read and write functions in their native language.

“Functions are pathways to knowledge. Wikifunctions aims to make these pathways more accessible than ever before.  Imagine a programming system where a single line of code can be run from anywhere by anyone — even by programs written in different programming languages. That is the promise and potential of Wikifunctions,” said Dr. Denny Vrandečić, Head of Special Projects at the Wikimedia Foundation. “Wikifunctions will be built in the same community-led fashion as Wikipedia, with volunteer editors donating their time and energy to the cause of building a freely editable library of valuable functions. We are excited for this project to continue to grow with their contributions.”

Currently, functions on Wikimedia projects are complex, siloed, and vary by language versions of various projects (Wikipedia alone has over 300 language versions). Wikifunctions will place functions in a single shared space, simplifying the work of the volunteers who maintain them and increasing their accessibility. Wikifunctions will eventually integrate with Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, opening new opportunities for knowledge creation.

 “Wikifunctions will bring together different data sources from other Wikimedia projects in new and powerful ways, ultimately leveraging functional code to create new forms of knowledge,”  said Selena Deckelmann, Chief Product and Technology Officer at the Wikimedia Foundation. “We are excited to announce Wikifunctions as yet another step in getting us closer to our vision of a world where everyone can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.”

Wikifunctions is the underlying technical infrastructure that will support a wider initiative by the Wikimedia Foundation to enable people to share more knowledge in more languages across Wikipedia.  Through this initiative, users will be able to create and maintain content in their native language, which others can access in over 300 languages available on Wikimedia projects. The long-term aim of this effort is to create knowledge that is independent of language, and easier for Wikipedia editors to share, add, translate, and improve across languages on the online encyclopedia. The work is being supported by grants from Google.org, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the Wikimedia Endowment.

Wikifunctions was approved by the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees in 2020. The project went live as a read-only site earlier this year, and it is now available so that anyone, anywhere can use it. It is the fourteenth Wikimedia project — the first new project in a decade. Learn more about the project at wikifunctions.org.

About the Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation is the nonprofit organization that operates Wikipedia and other Wikimedia free knowledge projects. Our vision is a world in which every single human can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. We believe that everyone has the potential to contribute something to our shared knowledge and that everyone should be able to access that knowledge freely. We host Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects; build software experiences for reading, contributing, and sharing Wikimedia content; support the volunteer communities and partners who make Wikimedia possible. The Wikimedia Foundation is a United States 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization with offices in San Francisco, California, USA.

For media inquiries, please contact press@wikimedia.org.

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