In what can only be described as a win for open standards, the Wikimedia Foundation — the San Francisco-based nonprofit that hosts Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, Wikibooks, and dozens of related community projects — today announced that it’s joining the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the leading international standards organization for the World Wide Web. In a blog post published this morning, senior software engineer Gilles Dubuc says its work with W3C will principally entail providing feedback, attending meetings, participating in standards’ designs, and performing “some of the technical work necessary to put [them] together.”
“We are pleased to welcome the Wikimedia Foundation among our membership,” said W3C global business development leader Alan Bird. “With their … interests in so many of the areas we advance on the web, we anticipate that the Wikimedia Foundation’s participation will be key in building the services and structures that enable web users.”
The move, Dubuc points out, aligns with the Wikimedia Foundation’s 2030 strategy outlined last October, which calls on the organization to “become the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge.” Web technologies and standards are necessarily a part of this — the W3C, which was founded in 1994 by tech luminary Tim Berners-Lee, comprises over 476 members working together to ensure consistency across browsers and platforms.
Agreed-upon, vendor-agnostic standards like HTML, CSS, and XML play a vital role in facilitating “knowledge equity,” Dubuc says.
“To achieve our vision, we need to participate and collaborate in designing the future of the web,” he added. “We’re going to contribute to shaping a future of the web that helps everyone create and share free knowledge.”
So what changes might result in the near term? Probably few. As one of my colleagues noted, though, the markup language in Wikipedia’s MediaWiki software — Wikitext, also known as Wikicode — uses some HTML elements but isn’t web-standard. Perhaps that’ll change down the line.
Wikipedia, which was visited over 190 billion times last year, currently offers its database of articles in about 300 languages. It plans to grow that number through a partnership with Google revealed in January, which will see the number of dialects supported by its content translation tool expand from 106 to 121 total with the integration of Google Translate.
In a tangentially related development late last year, Facebook pledged over $1 million to the Wikimedia Endowment, the fund founded in 2016 that financially supports Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, following in the footsteps of tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Qualcomm, Salesforce, Adobe, Google, and Netflix. The foundation’s initial goal was to raise $100 million; to date, it has raised just under $50 million.