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Wikipedia requires a certain amount of administration and governance in order to further the project's goals. To achieve Wikipedia's purpose, a wide range of administrative pages are made available in various namespaces which enumerate the various protocols and conventions created and implemented by community consensus for English Wikipedia. Of course, this process is not generally automated, and live human administration is necessary to ensure that the editing of project pages, whether administration pages or content pages, happens peacefully and in accordance with the policies generally, and loosely, governing the creation and editing of all Wikipedia pages.

Human and legal administration

Wikipedia administrative structure

At the top of the human and legal administrative structure is the Wikimedia Foundation, a not-for-profit and charitable organization governed by a Board of Trustees. Although the Wikimedia Foundation owns Wikipedia, it is largely uninvolved in the creation of Wikipedia's policies and daily implementation of those policies (see below). The Wikipedia community is generally self−organizing and −governing, as editors with varying administrative abilities and their elected project administrators are granted considerable discretion over the means used to accomplish Wikipedia's purpose. Editors are entrusted with the responsibility of upholding the integrity of Wikipedia while adhering to intellectual property rights, such as avoiding plagiarism, respecting copyright laws, and presenting appropriate citations for article content.

Pursuant to the Five Pillars, English Wikipedia does not occur according to firm rules. Wikipedia's protocols are principles, not a civil code or exacting law and are actualized using common sense and editor discretion. Wikipedia's policies, guidelines, and formatting norms are created and revised by the editing community to describe best practices, and clarify doctrine aimed at improving the encyclopedia and resolving disputes. These "official" protocols and conventions require discussion and a high level of community-wide consensus for promotion to a guideline or policy, thus have a significant degree of influence during deliberations. Most processes on Wikipedia depend on editor consensus in some form or another governed by Wikipedia's content and conduct policies. While consensus is the key method for making decisions, a consensus amongst a small group of editors cannot override community wide policies such as "Neutral point of view". In order to determine community consensus and resolve ongoing disputes, a wide array of discussion venues are made available covering topic specific issues editors encounter in writing and maintaining Wikipedia.

Ensuring the harmonious implementation of the project's editor consensus-developed protocols governing the creation and development of all types of pages are editors elected or appointed to certain roles: i.e., functionaries like stewards and the Arbitration Committee, alongside bureaucrats, and administrators, all of whom ultimately derive their own authority from the Wikimedia Foundation. As well as being volunteer mediators, with the ability (tools) to restrict editing on pages, "project custodians" have the authority to limit, block or ban individuals who would widely be seen as disruptive, tendentious, or dishonest. In cases where the conduct dispute resolution procedure has been ineffective, the Arbitration Committee has the authority to deal with highly disruptive or sensitive situations. Some matters of a legal nature with regards to the safety of children, libel statements, legal threats or threats of harm, are reported to administrators and may be deferred to the Wikimedia Foundation for resolution and the edit history of the incident removed from public view.

Wikimedia Foundation

Logo of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) owns and operates Wikipedia, along with several other collaborative, wiki-based Internet projects. The WMF organizes the raising of money, distributes grants, develops software, deploys that software, controls the servers, and does outreach to support Wikimedia projects. The WMF does not edit Wikipedia content (except for occasional office actions). Wikipedia editors handle content and internal policies.

The WMF is governed and guided by the terms of their Charter, Corporate Bylaws, Mission Statement, Vision, Values, and Strategy (the last two of which are not officially adopted by the Foundation). In addition, the Founding Principles are a statement of the common principles guiding the founding of any Wikimedia project. See officially adopted policies.

The global work of the Foundation is supported by "Wikimedia local chapters" (usually incorporated as non-profit corporations, according to the law of the locality), and each is governed by their own chapter board of trustees. Trustees of Wikimedia affiliates are assisted by a very small number of Wikimedia staff.


Icon that typically represents editors on Wikipedia

Editors, often referred to as Wikipedians, are the individuals who comprise the community of volunteers that write and edit the pages of Wikipedia as opposed to readers, who simply read the articles. Some editors use their real life names as "user names", to identify themselves on Wikipedia, whereas others choose never to reveal personal information. Theoretically all editors are equal with no "power structure" or "law enforcement officers." There are however, within the editing community, editors with extra privileges (maintenance responsibilities or ability to perform certain administrative actions). Other categories of contributors have also emerged, such as Wikipedians in residence and students with assignments related to editing Wikipedia (see below).

User access levels (or User rights and groups) are determined by whether an editor is logged into an account, whether the account is of sufficient age or by number of constrictive edits based on knowledge of Wikipedia protocols. Some User levels are granted automatically; for example, an autoconfirmed user is an account that is more than four days old. Others User rights are only given upon request, such as rollbacker, page mover or template editor. Entry into User groups such as administrator and bureaucrat, are determined by community discussion and consensus (see below). Oversight and CheckUser Rights are only granted by the Arbitration Committee, and only after strict scrutiny (see below). The system-generated user rights are listed at Special:ListGroupRights.

The English Wikipedia currently has 47,279,006 users who have registered a username. Only a minority of users contribute regularly (123,674 have edited in the last 30 days), and only a minority of those contributors participate in community discussions. An unknown but relatively large number of unregistered Wikipedians also contribute to the site. Creating an account is free and has several benefits, for example, the ability to create pages, upload media, and edit without one's IP address being visible to the public.


Icon that typically represents stewards on Wikipedia

Stewards are volunteer editors with complete access to the wiki interface on all Wikimedia wikis, including the ability to change any and all user rights and groups. This means that, along with the Wikipedia Arbitration Committee, stewards have Checkuser and Oversight rights. They are tasked with technical implementation of community consensus, dealing with emergencies, and intervening against cross-wiki vandalism. The number of stewards is not limited by any policies. Stewards are elected annually by the global Wikimedia community. Candidates must have a support/oppose ratio of at least 80% with at least 30 supporting users. Current stewards are confirmed during each election. Stewards are subject to the stewards' policy; further documentation may be found in the steward handbook.

The Wikimedia Foundation created the position of steward when it recognized the need to separate user rights management from software development and systems administration.

Arbitration Committee

Icon that typically represents Arbitration Committee members on Wikipedia

Members of the Arbitration Committee (referred to as ArbCom or Arbs), are volunteer editors who act in concert or in sub-groups imposing binding solutions on conduct disputes the community has been unable to resolve. ArbCom has very wide latitude in adjudication with the authority to impose general sanctions and/or personal sanctions on editors or groups of editors. They impose sanctions, either as a result of remedies accepted during cases, or during requests for clarification or amendment, or as a result of motions. The arbitration process exists exclusively for Wikipedia conduct disputes (i.e., not content disputes that may require mediation). The committee also resolves issues by private hearings if factors such as privacy may preclude public consideration.

Arbitrators are elected annually in one-year or overlapping two-year terms. The original Committee was appointed by Jimmy Wales in December 2003 from a group of volunteers. Subsequently, elections were held on a yearly basis with Wales ratifying the results, but this role evolved into a purely ceremonial one and he has not been involved at all since 2013. The Wikimedia Foundation supports the technical side of the electoral process and requires that candidates meet the Wikimedia Foundation's criteria for access to non-public data and sign the Foundation's non-public information confidentiality agreement.

The election rules are debated each year. Although nomination is subject only to rather broad criteria, in practice only Administrators have succeeded in being selected as Arbitrators.


Bureaucrats are volunteer editors with the technical ability (user rights) to:

Icon that typically represents bureaucrats on Wikipedia
  • promote other users to administrator or bureaucrat status.
  • remove the admin status of other users
  • grant and revoke an account's bot status.

They are bound by policy and consensus to grant administrator or bureaucrat access only when doing so reflects the wishes of the community, usually after a successful request at Wikipedia:Requests for adminship. In like fashion, they are expected to exercise judgement in granting or removing bot flags on the advice of the Bot Approvals Group. They are expected to be capable judges of consensus, and are expected to explain the reasoning for their actions on request and in a civil manner. Users are granted bureaucrat status by community consensus. The process is similar to the process of granting administrator status, but the expectations for potential bureaucrats are higher and community consensus must be clearer.

Bureaucrats do not have the technical ability to grant other levels of access (they cannot assign oversight or checkuser rights). These actions are performed by stewards, a small multilingual group that serves all Wikimedia projects. Additional stewards are elected annually; for more information see Requests for permissions. Changes in user rights by stewards are recorded at m:Special:Log/rights. The English Wikipedia currently has 17 bureaucrats as of 20 April 2024. Though not required by policy, in practice all bureaucrats are also Administrators.


Icon that typically represents administrators on Wikipedia

Administrators, commonly known as admins or sysops (system operators), are volunteer editors who have been trusted with access to restricted technical features ("tools"). For example, administrators can protect and delete pages, and block other editors. See Wikipedia:Administrators/Tools. Administrators are appointed after a successful community review process at Wikipedia:Requests for adminship in which consensus is determined by the bureaucrats. The English Wikipedia currently has 860 administrators as of 20 April 2024.

Administrators assume responsibilities as volunteers; thus are never required to use their tools, and must never use them to gain an advantage in a dispute in which they are involved (see: Wikipedia:What adminship is not). Only Jimmy Wales or the Wikipedia Arbitration Committee may authorize the removal of administrator privileges, and this authorization may be executed by any bureaucrat or steward.

Wikipedians in residence

A Wikipedian in residence is a volunteer editor who accepts a placement with an institution, typically an art gallery, library, archive or museum or institute of higher education (such as a university) to facilitate Wikipedia entries. Typical duties of such posts include outreach to other staff and members of the public, as well as making contributions to articles relevant to the institution's materials and mission. Such outreach work may include the arranging of training events and editathons. See Wikipedia:GLAM for more information.

Educators and students

The Education program helps with the coordination of educators and students around the world contribute to Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects in an academic setting. Educators assign their students to contribute to Wikipedia based on course-related topics. Programs are run by Wikimedia local chapters (usually incorporated as non-profit corporations, according to the law of the locality), affiliate organizations, and dedicated volunteer Wikipedia editors. Supporting the program is a limited number of staff members at the Wikimedia Foundation, who help program leaders start and scale their programs sustainably.

Data structure and development

Development of the Wikipedia data structure occurs within various namespaces. Namespaces allow for the organization and separation of content pages from administration pages. Each namespace also segregates and organizes data according to its function within the overall project schema (articles, portals, files, drafts, templates etc.). Namespaces separate data into core sets, those intended for public viewing, and those intended for the editing community. Unlike the Article namespace, and other content related namespaces, such as the Portal namespace, administrative namespaces are used to assist the building of content and should be seen to be mutually exclusive of content pages, except for cases where a linkage is required. In other words, administration pages should be in the background and not visible to the reader.

Subject namespaces Talk namespaces
0 (Main/Article) Talk 1
2 User User talk 3
4 Wikipedia Wikipedia talk 5
6 File File talk 7
8 MediaWiki MediaWiki talk 9
10 Template Template talk 11
12 Help Help talk 13
14 Category Category talk 15
100 Portal Portal talk 101
118 Draft Draft talk 119
710 TimedText TimedText talk 711
828 Module Module talk 829
Former namespaces
108 Book Book talk 109
442 Course Course talk 443
444 Institution Institution talk 445
446 Education Program Education Program talk 447
2300 Gadget Gadget talk 2301
2302 Gadget definition Gadget definition talk 2303
2600 Topic 2601
Virtual namespaces
-1 Special
-2 Media
Current list (API call)

Administration pages, including user pages, draft pages, policies pages, information pages, maintenance pages, talk pages and interactive forums fall completely within the bounds of administration, as distinguished from content. In this regard, categories are utilized for both content and administration but should not have both types of pages within the same category. Templates are also used for both content and administration pages and therefore, unlike other administrative pages, are collected together and entirely as sub-categories of Category:Wikipedia templates.

Excluding the Article namespace all namespaces use a prefix; for example, all user pages are prefixed by User:, and help pages by the prefix Help:. Some namespaces also have abbreviated identifiers, for example typing WT: is a shortcut redirect for the "Wikipedia talk" namespace and H: for the "Help" namespace. By default Wikipedia's search engine is restricted to the Article namespace. However typing a namespace "name" (prefix) followed by a colon limits search results to that namespace (see Special:Search for details). Namespace prefixes should not be confused with prefixes for interwiki linking. Each namespace is given a numerical value - intended for hiding pages on a watchlist (see Hide Pages in Watchlist for details).

Content namespaces

Content namespaces are intended for use by readers as part of the encyclopedia such as articles.

Article namespace

The Main namespace or Article namespace is the namespace of Wikipedia that contains the encyclopedia proper—that is, where content—Wikipedia articles reside. The main namespace is the default namespace and does not use a prefix in article page names. This is distinct from other namespaces where page names are always prefixed by an indicator of the particular namespace in which the page resides. Thus, any page created without such a prefix will automatically be placed in the article namespace. The Main namespace number is zero (0).

Portal namespace

The Portal namespace is intended to serve as "main pages" for content (articles) to specific topics or areas. The idea of a portal is to help readers and/or editors navigate their way through Wikipedia topic areas through pages similar to the Main Page. In essence, portals such as the Contents portal, are useful entry-points to Wikipedia's content. Portals may be associated with WikiProjects; however, unlike WikiProjects, portals are meant for both readers and editors of Wikipedia, and should promote content and its navigation.

A portal link box may be added to a page by typing {{Portal|<portal name>}} for example {{Portal|Energy}}. If more than one portal is to be linked use a second parameter, for example {{Portal|Energy|Cycling}}. At present, there are 538 portals on Wikipedia. Pages in this namespace will always have the prefix Portal: and alias P:. The Portal namespace number is one hundred (100). See Wikipedia:Portal guidelines for general guidelines and best practices.

Category namespace

The Category namespace is a software feature of MediaWiki, which enables pages to be added to automatic listings. These help structure Wikipedia's contents and administrative pages by grouping together pages on similar subjects. A category page lists the articles (or administrative pages) that have been added to a particular category. There may also be a section listing the subcategories of that category. The subcategorization feature makes it possible to organize categories into tree-like structures to aid navigation.

Article pages should be kept out of administrative categories if possible. There are separate administrative categories for different kinds of non-article pages, such as template categories, disambiguation page categories, project page categories etc. See WP:PROJCATS for details.

To add a page to a category, include "[[Category:Category name]]" or "[[Category:Category name|Sortkey]]" in that page's wikimarkup. The categories to which a page belongs appear in a box at the bottom of the page. Pages in this namespace will always have the prefix Category: and alias CAT:. The Category namespace number is fourteen (14). See Wikipedia:Categorization for generally accepted standards.

Administrative namespaces

Administrative namespaces are intended for use by editors or by automated tools for the administration and governance of the encyclopedia. See also Category:Wikipedia project content guidelines

Talk namespace

Location of the talk page tab

For every type of namespace (including the Main namespace) there is a corresponding Talk namespace or Talk page, reached by clicking the Talk tab just above the title. The accompanying talk namespace for each namespace page is a place where editors may discuss and dialogue on their work in the various administrative and content pages in the corresponding namespaces. (Note: on interactive noticeboards discussion happens on the main page.)

The talk pages are designated by appending the word talk to the namespace name. The talk namespace associated with the article namespace is Talk:. Whereas the user and project namespaces are even-numbered, the talk namespaces are odd-numbered and are assigned the odd number that follows the corresponding substantive namespace number. See Help:Using talk pages for general advice.

User namespace

Wikipedia provides personal user pages in the User namespace to facilitate communication among participants here to build an encyclopedia. Generally, substantial content on a user page that is unrelated to Wikipedia is avoided. Wikipedia is not a general hosting service, so a user page is not used as a personal website. However, a user page may be about the particular editor's "persona" as a Wikipedian, including the pages to which the user has contributed or their general interests in regard to subjects or projects related to Wikipedia, its administration and content. In addition, there is broad agreement that an editor may not include in their user space any material that is likely to bring the project into disrepute.

To reach a user page, simply type User:username, where "username" is the user's Wikipedia username. The talk namespace associated with the user namespace has the prefix User talk:. The User namespace is assigned the namespace number two (2). See Wikipedia:User page design center for some fun.

"Wikipedia" aka Project namespace

Although it may appear from its name that the Wikipedia namespace or the Project namespace might contain the actual content of the Wikipedia articles, this is not correct. The Main namespace is the default namespace and therefore does not use a prefix in article page names. The Project namespace is a namespace consisting of pages with information or discussion about Wikipedia itself. As such, Wikipedia namespace pages are purely administrative, and the inclusion of substantive content should be avoided unless the content itself is about administration. The project namespace includes, policies, guidelines, essays, WikiProjects, informative, discussion, maintenance and process pages like Wikipedia:Articles for deletion. This "information page" is contained within the Wikipedia namespace.

Pages in this namespace will always have the prefix Wikipedia:. They can also be reached by alias WP: or the standard (for any MediaWiki site) prefix Project:. The Wikipedia namespace number is four (4).

Help namespace

The Help namespace consisting of Wikipedia pages whose titles begin with the prefix Help: and alias H:, such as Help:Link. These pages contain information intended to help use Wikipedia or its software. Some of these pages are intended for readers of the encyclopedia; others are intended for editors, whether beginning or advanced. Some of the pages in the Help namespace are copied from Meta-Wiki.

There is a large amount of overlap between the Help namespace and the Wikipedia namespaces. For this reason redirects and hatnotes are often set up between these two namespaces. See Help:About the help pages for more information. The Help namespace number is twelve (12).

File namespace

The File namespace contains millions of illustrative images and other electronic media. The File Namespace is the namespace in which all of Wikipedia's media content resides including data files for images, video clips, or audio clips, including document length clips; or midi files (a small, computer-instructions file). The media filenames all begin with the prefix File:. The File namespace number is six (6).

A typical file can be inserted with the line code [[File:...|thumb|...]]. Image: can be substituted for File: with no change in effect for images, the choice between the two is purely a matter of editorial preference. Only logged in users can upload files under an appropriate title. See Wikipedia:Creation and usage of media files for more information.

Template namespace

The Template namespace is used to store templates, intended for inclusion on multiple pages. Templates are an administrative feature that generally duplicate the same content across more than one page while helping reduce wikitext and HTML markup. Changes to a template will immediately propagate to the pages that use it. Common uses include to display administrative notices, infoboxes, navigational boxes, standard warnings, special text formatting, unit conversions, calculations and many other purposes. The most common method of inclusion is called transclusion, where the wikitext of the target page contains a reference to the template, using the {{Template name}} syntax.

Pages in this namespace will always have the prefix Template: and alias T:. The Template namespace number is ten (10). See Help:Template for information on developing templates and syntax details. For a table of some useful templates, see Wikipedia:Template messages. For detailed templating documentation see m:Help:Template.

Draft namespace

The Draft namespace is where new articles may be stored allowing them to be developed and receive feedback before being moved to Wikipedia's mainspace. Editors may also create draft pages in their userspace. Drafts are not indexed by most search engines including Google, meaning most readers will not find them. However anyone may search and view drafts on Wikipedia directly by using the Special:Search option. Pages in this namespace will always have the prefix Draft:. The Draft namespace number is one hundred and eighteen (118).

Create a new draft now!

MediaWiki namespace

The MediaWiki namespace is the database structure namespace used by MediaWiki software, on which Wikipedia runs. The pages in this namespace (whose titles begin MediaWiki:) contain the text to be displayed in certain places in the web interface. Only administrators can edit this namespace, but all editors can propose changes on the appropriate talk pages. See Wikipedia:Village pump (technical) and Wikipedia:Developers for more information. See Wikipedia:MediaWiki messages for discussions about the content of MediaWiki pages. The MediaWiki namespace number is eight (8)

Virtual namespaces

There are two virtual namespaces that do not relate to pages stored in the database: Special and Media.

Special namespace

Special pages are pages that have no wikitext, but are generated by the software on demand. They are found in the "Special:" namespace. It is not possible to make a redirect to a special page, or to create normal pages beginning with the "Special:" prefix. Special pages often take parameters. Sometimes these can be supplied after a slash (as in Special:Log/block); in other cases an index.php call is used (as in Special:RecentChanges). Also the content of some special pages depends on preferences that have been set by the user, e.g. classic or enhanced Recent Changes, the number of titles in Recent Changes and the watchlist, etc.

The special pages can be accessed from Special:SpecialPages, which is found in the sidebar of every page on Wikipedia. It is located in the Toolbox section. The namespace number for a special namespace page is negative one (-1).

Media namespace

The Media namespace is used to render a link which can activate the image or audio or video of a data file directly, on its own page (separate from the rendered page or the file page), for example Media:Great Feeling.ogv. The Media namespace number is negative two (-2).

See also

  • User:Jimbo Wales/Statement of principlesstatement of principles! by the co-founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, as updated by the community since then.
  • Contributing to Wikipedia – the main "how-to" page that provides information, links, videos and other resources on the basics needed to comprehend, comment on, and edit Wikipedia.
  • Core content policies – a brief summary and background on Wikipedia's core content policies.
  • Editorial discretion – discusses how common sense and Wikipedia policy dictates that editors must practice discretion regarding the proper inclusion of relevant and well-sourced content.
  • Editor integrity – discusses how editors have a responsibility to uphold the integrity of Wikipedia and respect intellectual property rights of the sources they draw upon when they create and improve encyclopedia pages.
  • The essence of Wikipedia – describes how Wikipedia is the harnessing of the collective intelligence and collaborative efforts of editors who hold opposing points of view, in an attempt to preserve all serious contributions which are reliably sourced.
  • The role of policies in collaborative anarchy – describes how policies produce a quality encyclopaedia.
  • WikiProject Democracy – links to information where you can participate in governing Wikipedia.

Further reading

  • Dariusz Jemielniak (2014). Common Knowledge?: An Ethnography of Wikipedia. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-8944-8.
  • Joseph M. Reagle; Lawrence Lessig (2012). Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-28870-5.
  • Thomas Leitch; Thomas M. Leitch (2014). "Paradoxes of Authority". Wikipedia U: Knowledge, Authority, and Liberal Education in the Digital Age. JHU Press. p. 31. ISBN 978-1-4214-1535-2.
  • Wolfgang Gaul; Andreas Geyer-Schulz; Lars Schmidt-Thieme (2012). "Wikipedia: A Directed Graph of Articles". Challenges at the Interface of Data Analysis, Computer Science, and Optimization. Vol. Proceedings of the 34th Annual Conference of the Gesellschaft für Klassifikation e. V., Karlsruhe. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 272. ISBN 978-3-642-24465-0.

External links

External videos
video icon Jimmy Wales: The birth of Wikipedia, 2005 TED (conference), 20 mins.