Delivering access to knowledge: Wikipedia

Wikipedia needs no introduction: it’s the largest encyclopedia in the world, built by users, and has become a truly indispensable resource. With users all around the world, one of their primary goals is to make it as easy to access information from any type of device, from small mobile screens to full-sized laptops and desktop computers. Building the Wikipedia app for Windows 8 helps to accomplish this: it scales gracefully across devices and has been already been downloaded over a million times.

Recently, Wikipedia’s Kul Wadhwa (Head of Mobile) and Brion Vibber (Lead Software Architect) talked about their approach to building the Wikipedia app. “Windows 8 is definitely changing how we think about mobile,” said Brion, “because it’s not just small screens, it’s also large screens and beyond. Something that works on tablets and also scales up to a regular PC—it’s different, it’s interesting, it’s something that isn’t quite what we’ve done before.”

So what makes the Wikipedia app work so well? For one thing, it’s designed beautifully, with no unnecessary chrome, letting you can navigate quickly using familiar scrolling and tapping gestures.

Wikipedia app for Windows 8

From within an article, you can bring up the app bar to switch languages, open the article in your browser, find text on the page, or pin the article to your Start screen as a secondary tile.

Wikipedia app bar

However, where Wikipedia really shines is when you’re not using it, especially on a laptop.


The number one way people interact with Wikipedia is through search, whether through a search engine or on Wikipedia’s own site. Windows 8 makes it much faster to launch a search of Wikipedia than any other platform. Try it out:

  • Using touch, simply swipe in from the right, type your search term, and select Wikipedia. Your search results display instantly in the Wikipedia app.
  • Using a keyboard is even faster: hit the Windows key to go to the Start screen, start typing your search term (Search will launch automatically), then select Wikipedia.

Wikipedia content is the same everywhere: on Windows 8, it’s just a lot easier and faster to get to.


Wikipedia has done something really creative with their Share target implementation that lets you quickly look up a term and get back to whatever you were doing.

  • In Internet Explorer, or any other app, highlight the word you want to look up.
  • Swipe in to select Share, then choose Wikipedia.
  • The Wikipedia app will display the article associated with that word in a flyout, without taking you away from the app you were using.

Wikipedia app using Share contract

Wikipedia cares about reaching all users, and Windows 8 is a great vehicle for doing just that: it’s available in over 200 markets, and runs on all types of PCs. The Wikipedia app is a wonderful example of how developers can truly integrate with multiple form factors, including tablets, laptops and desktops. Windows 8 apps are for all of them.

--Ben Thompson, Partner Marketing Manager

Comments (1)

  1. abm says:

    Great, but what about audio and video embedded in Wikipedia pages?

    IE10 can't play theora vorbis (ogg) format which Wikimedia chose for its media files. Similarly, the Wikipedia windows store app can't play the format as well!

    Microsoft, please natively support all the media formats on Windows Phone and Windows 8/RT, especially the live streaming ones ASF format, which was developed by Microsoft itself!!!!!!…/14552820 <– I tested that stream on Android's native video player and it worked.. And Windows Phone cannot play the live stream, nor does Windows RT! :-s

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