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Pre-launch Announcement of Wikibase.Cloud [WikidataCon Writeup]

WikidataCon 2021 was in October 2021, and one of the sessions that I spoke in was a “Pre-launch Announcement and Preview of Wikibase.Cloud”.

The recording is now up on YouTube, and below you’ll find a write-up summary of what was said.

You can also find:

So what is wikibase.cloud?

It’s a new platform that has yet to be launched, that is based on WBStack code, but that will be managed and maintained by Wikimedia Deutschland (or Wikimedia Germany).

This is a Wikibase as a service platform, that exists to offer open knowledge projects a new way to create their own Wikibase very quickly and very easily.

It’s more designed for projects that are interested in a quick startup and simplicity rather than those that are going to need lots of customizations such as custom integrations, a variety of very specialized extensions, tools and so on.

As for the status of it currently, we are at the moment getting the platform set up and ready for users.

The current anticipated launch date is early 2022, so around January, but if at all possible our goal is to get that launched for our ecosystem sooner than that, so we will keep you updated on the progress.

Why are we (Wikimedia Germany) working on this

Over the years it’s become very apparent that there end up being a lot of skills that are needed to run Wikibase, there are a lot of things involved in the Wikibase / MediaWiki ecosystem as well. Be that initially setting things up, updating things, staying on top of all of these updates as things continue changing, and also for Wikibase as well, the cost, especially when compared to something like MediaWiki.

MediaWiki can run on a shared hosting system that costs a couple of dollars a month. With Wikibase, when you also want to have an elastic search and you also want to have a query service, the costs can go up quite quickly, which is especially difficult for people who just want to try it out in the first place or have smaller projects.

Wikibase as a service is a solution to this or at least some parts of this. It was developed a few years back and is all open source under the WBStack organization. It combines MediaWiki, Wikibase, Blazegraph, SPARQL UI, some of the tools like quickstatements, cradle, widar, all within one platform, and it all runs on a shared infrastructure, so there are lots of costs savings.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some individual wikibases cost far more than the few hundred that exist on WBStack at the moment.

This also brings down the effort required to maintain all of these things as there is one set of things to maintain.

Hopefully, this will really differentiate from just running the Wikibase software yourself as it will be super easy to run out of the box, you’ll just have to create an account, click a button, and you can have your Wikibase with all of these things set up straight away.

And as Sam said earlier, there is definitely still space for requirements that will be outside of the normal use cases to need to run Wikibase yourself as well.

Where are we?

So the goal of today’s very quick lightning is to let everyone know that this is something that we are looking at and working on as opposed to a thing that is out there right now ready for you to sign up for, ready for you to use.

In the interest of full transparency, we are letting you know what our status is and where we are.

We are going to be releasing more information about the service, including the launch of a waiting list (to answer an earlier question) about how you sign up already to be interested in joining before December first.

We will get together some kind of nice and GDPR approved way for you to sign up for a waiting list to find out more information and sign up for the service at the point that it launches.

Just for the sake of clarity, any future announcements about wikibase.cloud are going to be made to the previously existing Wikibase user group mailing list, and we will also make them to the Wikibase telegram channel as well.

Questions & Answers

And that is it in terms of content, so we now have 5 minutes for any questions, and we will do our best to answer all of them in the 5 minutes allotted.

If there are any questions / burning questions / really important questions that we can’t get to today then please email me, my email is here, and we will try to get you an answer in a very timely fashion.

Will we need an invitation to register and create a Wikibase in the cloud?

Yes, for now.

Does / will it support federated properties?

Yes. WBStack.com already supports the first generation of federated properties right now

How much will it cost to use?

Right now the goal is for this to generally for the average user not cost anything at all. This is not for Wikimedia Germany something that we intend to use as a revenue generator.

This is something that we are offering to the community to ensure that open knowledge projects can freely and easily create Wikibases.

We will continue to work with the community over the next year or so to figure out what makes sense, is there some kind of reasonable avenue for some kind of really high volume high resource-consuming projects to contribute directly to the funding of the platform. But the goal of this is to be free.

Will it allow media?

In its first version, it will not allow media (That’s not technically in the WBStack code just yet). But in the future, Adam would like for it to allow media.

What will happen to the instances that are on WBStack? And will they be transferred to wikibase.cloud?

Yes. The longer-term idea here is that wbstack.com will stop existing. There will be a nice transition for the people that want to be transitioned.

Definition of a free knowledge project?

When we are thinking of free and open when it comes to free knowledge we are thinking of Wikibase instances that can be freely explored and queried or wikibase instances that consist of data that has a creative commons or compatible licence. So we are not necessarily thinking this is the right solution for closed system use cases (things that are specifically beneficial to one organization), but for wikibases that will help to create more knowledge for the world at large.

How will namespace prefixes be figured out?

Right now it will be as t is on WBStack where you only have the Wikidata prefixes such as wd:, but one of the things that we would want to do (as everyone else that uses Wikibase wants) is add some other prefixes there for the local wikibases

Where can I find the telegram group?

You can find the group linked from the Wikibase Community User Group page on meta.

What will wikbase.cloud offer more / different from what you offer now?

WBStack right now is a platform that is run as Adam in his capacity as a volunteer, which is a lot of work and responsibility for a single person.

Wikibase.cloud will be based on the WBStack open-source platform, but will be maintained by a full team of engineers at Wikimedia Germany, included in our annual roadmaps, and eventually folded into our broader support capabilities, including our partnerships team and our community communications team.

So in the coming year what we launch will not necessarily be a full end to end software as a service platform with all of the guarantees and assurances that potentially an institution might be looking for although that is what we strive to get to in the next year. But in the short term, you will know that you have a team of people who are working on this actively, it’s not something that is heavily burdening a single individual.

Technically and feature-wise it will have everything that WBStack.com currently has. In fact, it will have more, as WBStack.com will remain on MediaWiki 1.35, and Wikibase.cloud will start a bit further along than that.

How does the scale of wikibase.cloud compare to the scale of WBStack? Are there plans to support bigger wikis than currently?
I think the plan would be to support whatever fits within the scope of open knowledge projects in the ecosystem. The largest current Wikibase on WSBStack is somewhere between 0.5 to 1 million Entities. Minimally we would be supporting that, but the goal is that this is a feasible option for organizations that maybe don’t have strong customization needs, but maybe that have significant numbers of items and entities, where being able to put those somewhere that is a reliable and stable place would be beneficial for them and their organization.

What domain/subdomain instances will there be?

Custom domains are already possible on wbstack.com so they should also be possible on wikibase.cloud

If I want to run an instance on wikibase.cloud with 2.7 million items about persons, will that scale?

I don’t see why not

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