It’s been a long time coming, but the Wikimedia Foundation is finally on the cusp of rolling out its visual ‘WYSIWYG‘ editor for all Wikipedia users.

Back in December, Wikimedia explained why, after all these years, Wikipedia still relies on Wikitext, a markup code that precludes many people from actively contributing to the world’s biggest online encyclopedia. However, the organization has been working on a WYSIWYG editor for several years, and it said it has been the “most challenging software project the Wikimedia Foundation has ever worked on.”

Visual versus text

If you’ve ever used WordPress, you’ll note there’s a ‘visual’ and ‘text’ editing mode – the former essentially means you don’t ever have to touch HTML, so anyone with basic computing skills can blog and self-publish. Thus, a visual editor will revolutionize Wikipedia.

After an opt-in private alpha period that kicked off last December, Wikimedia today confirmed that the new visual interface will be available in beta for all users in early July as previously expected, though it will be restricted to logged-in users on English-language articles at first. Later in July, it will open to those without an account, and subsequently to other languages too.WP 730x335 Wikimedia readies its WYSIWYG visual editor for English language Wikipedia articles starting early JulyAhead of the launch, randomly-selected Wikipedia users will start seeing this new VisualEditor by default starting June 17, with Wikimedia gleaning feedback and ironing out bugs before of the broader roll-out.

“Visual HTML editors are now common on the Web, but building one for Wikipedia and its sister sites has been a challenge in itself, due to our specialized requirements and the need to integrate with our existing software, MediaWiki, ” Wikimedia says in its announcement. “Behind the scenes, VisualEditor heavily relies on Parsoid, a new complex software component for MediaWiki that translates between wiki markup and annotated HTML+RDFa.”

For now, you can still try it out for yourself – you can enable the VisualEditor in your preferences section under the editing tab. And ahead of the full ‘open’ beta launch, Wikimeida is inviting all alpha users to submit any bugs they find.