Over the past few months our technical team has been busy at work refactoring videos on Wikia. What does that mean exactly? Refactoring is a technical process that changed the underlying code for videos so that it is more MediaWiki friendly. The current way we handle videos was a custom namespace hack which doesn’t work well with MediaWiki. It is not searchable, has bad file history and just all around a bit clunky.
What changes will you see?
The refactoring has resulted in videos now being seen by MediaWiki as “files”. This means they will be part of the file namespace, and so are now searchable and have more detailed file pages that can be integrated into image display tools (galleries, slideshow, etc). The videos will still automatically receive a videos category tag, so you can find all videos there. Although videos will be part of the File namespace, for now we will be not be displaying them in the recent photos module and you will not see them in Special:Newfiles until we can provide a way to filter based on type of content.
Will they look different on the page?Yes, they will appear as an image thumbnail with a play button in the middle. Videos players will no longer be loaded automatically in the page so you should see some page performance improvements. The user experience itself should not change. To watch a video, simply click on the video thumbnail and the video player will load and play automatically. If you click on a video that has been added and sized at less than 320px width, a lightbox with a video player will load. If the video is larger than 320px, a video player will play in place on the page.
What will happen to existing videos?
Url clean up
Since the videos are moving into the File namespace, they need to comply with the parameters set there. Some existing videos contain characters forbidden in File namespace titles ( / : # specifically) so we will be updating these videos’ urls so that these characters are no longer a part of them. To do this we will be taking the following steps:
- These forbidden characters will be removed from the name of the file. So for example Video:HarryPotter# will become Video:HarryPotter
- If a File already exists with this name, the next available free number will be added to the video title. For example, this video could become Video:HarryPotter2 or Video:HarryPotter3 (and so on)
How is this being done? By the Wikiabot. It will rename each file, then check if that file is being used on any page. If it is, the WIkiabot will adjust the wikitext on the page to use the new name. The adjustments will all be recorded in recent changes (but suppressed from Wiki Activity). Any video name that does not have a special character in it will not be affected in this phase.
Video galleries are no longer supported in the current format. Existing video galleries will be converted to regular image galleries.
After we have made all Video files conform to the File namespace rules, we will be doing a data migration to convert all existing videos from the Video namespace to the File namespace. After this stage, all videos will have the url structure wikiname.wikia.com/wiki/File:videoname. The Video namespace will become an alias namespace (just as image is now for file) but all existing urls with Video in them (such as wikiname.wikia.com/wiki/Video:videoname) will continue to work and be redirected to the new File namespace (so you don’t need to worry about already embedded links). The Video namespace will no longer be presented on the wiki and will no longer be available in the namespace dropdown.
When will this happen?
We just finished refactoring and currently the changes are in QA. The renames need to be done before the data migration can be completed. This means you will see your video names changed first (if they contain special characters), followed by the videos being migrated to the File namespace.
Our current schedule is:
- Renaming videos with special characters: Thursday March 22 - We anticipate this taking a couple of days. We will be going wiki by wiki, starting with the wikis with the most videos.
- Data migration - We are hoping the last week of March or first week of April. We will update here and on the technical update.
Questions or concerns? Please let us know below. We believe this product will improve videos on your wiki and help us to create (and improve) our video products going forward.
Want to receive updates on the latest Staff blog posts? Then click here to follow this blog.