On Wednesday, the Wikimedia Foundation finally showed off the changes it made to the desktop version of its open online encyclopedia, an update that’s been over a decade coming and close three years in development.
And—well… it’s certainly an update, of sorts. At first glance most folk would struggle to see any real changes to the old formula. Wikipedia, alongside around 200 other Wikis, uses the default Wikimedia skin called Vector. Those sites who use Vector 2022 have to opt out of the new format individually, though developers wrote they did not touch any other kinds of Wiki skins. Sites can opt-out of the new version or switch to “Vector legacy” if they truly prefer the decade-old format.
The most obvious change was the top logo has been made smaller. The Article and Talk tabs have now moved underneath the article header. When searching, users will also see a tiny example of the article’s main image, which is honestly pretty useless as even the most eagle-eyed users won’t be able to tell what they’re looking at just by the ant-sized picture.
The nonprofit foundation that runs the site also touted a few new features that makes the main page slightly more customizable. There’s a new collapsible table of contents feature to instantly scroll to different sections of an article. That feature is sticky and will scroll with you down the page. The foundation also made the sidebar collapsible if you would like to see the page without any unnecessary text.
There are a few noticeable changes that do add a bit of functionality. The header and a few other widgets are also set to scroll along with the user, making it easier to see what page you’re currently reading and also search for a new page. The language selection bar now sits at the level of the title as well, making it easier to switch to another language version of Wikipedia midway through the page. Though most other non-English language wikis have switched over, Spanish-language Wikipedia is still using the old Vector format.
There’s a few other changes meant to increase readability. The site now has a smaller maximum text width. The foundation also plans to increase default font size some time in the future, though it will likely depend on user feedback.
Some of these features have been rolling out to smaller Wikis over the last few months. The foundation added that it will make even more subtle changes to the site, with some of those small refinements rolling out to early adopter wikis from June through September. Notably, some pages on Wikipedia are still using the old format despite the announced changes. As of writing, this page for director Steven Spielberg is still using the older version of Vector.
Wikipedia talked up its makeover back in 2020, but developers have taken their sweet time introducing these features to smaller Wikis. Despite a lack of updates to its site, Wikipedia has remained one of the web’s most-popular pages on the internet, and the Wikimedia Foundation claimed its 58 million articles across multiple languages are viewed 16 billion times every month. Israel-based web analytics firm Similarweb lists Wikipedia as the 7th-most viewed site, behind Google search and some social media sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
Update: 01/19/23 at 7:45 a.m. ET: This article was updated to correct the default font size, mentioned in the update docs, was not included in the Wikipedia makeover.