Wikidata is a new project for the Wikimedia Foundation: a free, collaborative, multilingual, secondary database, collecting structured data to provide support for Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, other Wikimedia projects, and beyond that.
What does this mean?
Let's look at the opening statement in more detail:
- Free. The data in Wikidata is published under a free license, allowing the reuse of the data in many different scenarios.
- Collaborative. The data in Wikidata is entered and maintained by Wikidata editors, who decide on the rules of content creation and management in Wikidata.
- Multilingual. Editing, consuming, browsing, and reusing the data is fully multilingual. Data entered in any language is immediately available in all other languages; editing in any language is possible and encouraged.
- A secondary database. Wikidata can record not just statements, but also their sources, thus reflecting the diversity of knowledge available and supporting the notion of verifiability.
- Collecting structured data. Unlike Wikimedia Commons, which collects media files, and the Wikipedias, which produce encyclopedic articles, Wikidata will collect data, in a structured form. This will allow easy reuse of that data by Wikimedia projects and third parties, and will enable computers to easily process and “understand” it.
- Support for Wikimedia projects. Wikidata supports Wikipedia with more easily maintainable language links and infoboxes, thus reducing the workload in Wikipedia and increasing its quality. Improvements or updates in one language are available in all other languages.
- Support well beyond that. Everyone can use Wikidata for a huge number of different services.
How does Wikidata work?
This wiki is the Wikidata repository. The repository is the central storage for the data that may be accessed by the client Wikis connected to the repository. By maintaining the data in the repository, content loaded dynamically from Wikidata does not need to be translated nor has to be kept up to date in each individual client Wiki. In addition, Wikidata has centralized all Wikipedia interlanguage links.
The Wikidata repository
The Wikidata repository consists mainly of items, each outlined by a label, a description and likely one or more aliases. Sitelinks connect the articles of all client wikis while statements describe detailed characteristics of each Item. Each statement consists of a property and a value: You can link items of people to their place of birth, to their occupation or to its number of an authority control database, link a politician to his or her political party. You can give mountain peaks, places or buildings geographic coordinates, link an Item about a township to its next higher administrative unit, link a country to its highest representative, to its national anthem and so on. All this informations can be used in any language to display it in their own language even if all the information is taken from a different language. Even more, with accessing these values client wikis will always embed the most up-to-date data.
For a person, you can add a property to specify where they were educated, by specifying a value for a school. For buildings, you can assign geographic coordinates properties by specifying longitude and latitude values. Properties can also link to external databases. A property that links an item to an external database, such as an authority control database used by libraries and archives, is called an identifier. Special Sitelinks connect an item to corresponding content on client wikis, such as Wikipedia, Wikibooks or Wikiquote.
All this information can be displayed in any language, even if the data originated in a different language. When accessing these values, client wikis will show the most up-to-date data.
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Accessing the data
There are a number of ways to access Wikidata using built-in tools, external tools, or programming interfaces.
- Wikidata Query and Reasonator are some of the popular tools to search for and examine Wikidata items. The tools page has an extensive list of interesting projects to explore.
- Data may be accessed in client Wikis using a Lua Scribunto interface. Apart from that, all data may be retrieved independently using the API.
Where to get started
Try out the Wikidata tours
If you have further questions, a lot of data can be found on the Wikidata portal on meta.
That sounds cool. How can I help?
Thanks for your interest! Wikidata can only be a success if there is a critical mass of contributors to the project. We are aware that very different communities are interested in the work of Wikidata. The best way for now to keep up-to-date and to participate in discussions is to subscribe to the Wikidata mailing list.
There is more to come
Wikidata is an ongoing project that is under active development. More data types as well as queries will be available in the future. You can find more information about Wikidata and its ongoing development on the Wikidata page on Meta. Subscribe to the the Wikidata mailing list to receive up-to-date information about the development and to participate in discussions about the future of the project.