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Semantic MediaWiki

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Semantic MediaWiki

Semantic MediaWiki
Developer(s) various
Stable release 2.0 / August 4, 2014 (2014-08-04)
Written in PHP
Operating system Cross-platform
Type MediaWiki extension
License GPL

Semantic MediaWiki (SMW) is an extension to MediaWiki that allows for annotating semantic data within wiki pages, thus turning a wiki that incorporates the extension into a semantic wiki. Data that has been encoded can be used in semantic searches, used for aggregation of pages, displayed in formats like maps, calendars and graphs, and exported to the outside world via formats like RDF and CSV.


Semantic MediaWiki was initially created by Markus Krötzsch, Denny Vrandečić and Max Völkel, and was first released in 2005. Its development was initially funded by the EU-funded FP6 project SEKT, and was later supported in part by Institute AIFB of the University of Karlsruhe (later renamed the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology). Krötzsch remains the lead developer as of 2011, while other core developers are Jeroen De Dauw and Yaron Koren.[1]

Basic syntax

Every semantic annotation within SMW is a "property" connecting the page on which it resides to some other piece of data, either another page or a data value of some type, using triples of the form "subject, predicate, object".

As an example, a page about Germany could have, encoded within it, the fact its capital city is Berlin. On the page "Germany", the syntax would be:

 ... the capital city is  ...

which is semantically equivalent to the statement "Germany" "Has capital" "Berlin". In this example the "Germany" page is the subject, "Has capital" is the predicate, and "Berlin" is the object that the semantic link is pointing to.

However, the much more common way of storing data within Semantic MediaWiki is via MediaWiki templates which themselves contain the necessary SMW markup. For this example, the "Germany" page could contain a call to a template called "Country", that looked like this:

The "Country" template would handle storing whatever the value of the parameter "Capital" is, using the property "Has capital". The template would also handle the display of the data. Semantic MediaWiki developers have estimated that 99% of SMW data is stored in this way.[2]

Semantic MediaWiki also has its own inline querying tools. For instance, if pages about countries stored additional information like population data, a query could be added to a page that displays a list of all countries with a population greater than 50 million, along with their capital city; and Germany would appear in such a list, with Berlin alongside it.[3]


Semantic MediaWiki is in use on over 300 public active wikis around the world, in addition to an unknown number of private wikis.[4][5] Notable public wikis that use SMW include the Pfizer,[9] Harvard Pilgrim Health Care,[10] Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development,[11] the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory,[12] the Metropolitan Museum of Art[13] and the U.S. Department of Defense.[14]

SMW has notably gained traction in the health care domain for collaboratively creating bio-medical terminologies and ontologies.[15] Examples are LexWiki,[16] which is jointly run by the Stanford University; and Neuroscience Information Framework's NeuroLex.

Semantic MediaWiki is also supported on the wiki farm Referata,[17] by default.[18] Wikia has previously activated Semantic MediaWiki on user request, but has stopped doing so since upgrading to version 1.19 of MediaWiki.

Semantic MediaWiki and Wikidata

Some members of the academic community began urging the use of SMW on WorldHeritage since it was first proposed.[19] In a 2006 paper, Max Völkel et al. wrote that in spite of WorldHeritage's utility, "its contents are barely machine-interpretable. Structural knowledge, e.g. about how concepts are interrelated, can neither be formally stated nor automatically processed. Also the wealth of numerical data is only available as plain text and thus can not be processed by its actual meaning."[20]

In 2010, Wikimedia Foundation Deputy Director Erik Möller stated that Wikimedia was interested in adding semantic capabilities to WorldHeritage, but that they were unsure whether Semantic MediaWiki was the right solution, since it was unclear whether it could be used without negatively affecting WorldHeritage's performance.[21]

In April 2012, the Wikimedia Foundation project Wikidata began, which is intended to provide a massive centralized database for use in articles of every language in WorldHeritage. Wikidata supplants the potential use of Semantic MediaWiki on WorldHeritage, but its software uses a subset of the Semantic MediaWiki code, that was spun off as its own library, called "DataValues".[5]

Spinoff extensions

A form to edit a page, using the Semantic Forms extension

A variety of open-source MediaWiki extensions exist that use the data structure provided by Semantic MediaWiki.[22] Among the most notable are:

  • Semantic Forms - enables user-created forms for adding and editing pages that use semantic data
  • Semantic Result Formats - provides a large number of display formats for semantic data, including charts, graphs, calendars and mathematical functions
  • Semantic Drilldown - provides a faceted browser interface for viewing the semantic data in a wiki
  • Semantic Maps - displays geographic semantic data using various mapping services


The official gathering for Semantic MediaWiki developers and users is SMWCon, which has been held twice a year since 2010, in various cities in the United States and Europe.[23] The largest such event, in October 2013 in Berlin, had around 90 attendees.[24]

See also


  1. ^ SMW Project,
  2. ^ "semantic templates help". Semantic MediaWiki. Retrieved 2011-07-21. 
  3. ^ "inline queries help". Semantic MediaWiki. 2011-06-22. Retrieved 2011-07-21. 
  4. ^ "List of active SMW-using wikis". Retrieved 2011-07-21. 
  5. ^ a b "Semantic MediaWiki Frequently-Asked Questions". 2011-06-09. Retrieved 2011-07-21. 
  6. ^ DOE Launches New Website to Bring Energy Technology Information to the Public, press release, December 9, 2009
  7. ^ "Semantic MediaWiki testimonials page". 2011-06-30. Retrieved 2011-07-21. 
  8. ^ Bry, Francois;   In the article, it's provided as example of "Novel Semantic Wiki Applications"; according to the authors, «Semantic wikis could be used to contribute to the semi-automatisation of the translation process by making explicit the multi-lingual correspondences between texts».
  9. ^ "Bio-IT World 2009, Track 3". Retrieved 2011-07-21. 
  10. ^ Wikify Your Metadata! Integrating Business Semantics, Metadata Discovery, and Knowledge Management, March 16, 2010, EnterpriseDataWorld Conference Schedule
  11. ^ knowIT, a semantic informatics knowledge management system, WikiSym 2009, Laurent Alquier, Keith McCormick and Ed Jaeger
  12. ^ "Semantic MediaWiki Projects at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory". Retrieved 2011-07-21. 
  13. ^ Bringing the Semantic Web to Museums, Paul Miller, January 27, 2009
  14. ^ Flexible, purposive SMW use, SMWCon Spring 2010, Clarence Dillon
  15. ^ Semantic Wikis: A Comprehensible Introduction with Examples from the Health Sciences. Maged N. Kamel Boulos. Journal of Emerging Technologies in Web Intelligence, Vol. 1, No. 1, August 2009.
  16. ^ "". 2009-07-14. Retrieved 2011-07-21. 
  17. ^ "Referata". Referata. 2011-06-28. Retrieved 2011-07-21. 
  18. ^ Get Your MediaWiki Hosting Here, Jennifer Zaino,, December 1, 2008
  19. ^ Markus Krötzsch, Denny Vrandecic, Denny Vr, Max Völkel (2005), WorldHeritage and the Semantic Web – The Missing Links, Proceedings of Wikimania 2005 
  20. ^ M Völkel, M Krötzsch, D Vrandecic (2006), Semantic MediaWiki, Proceedings of the 15th international conference on World Wide Web, p. 585,  
  21. ^ WorldHeritage to Add Meaning to Its Pages, Tom Simonite, Technology Review, July 7, 2010
  22. ^ List of Semantic MediaWiki extensions.
  23. ^ "SMWCon homepage". Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  24. ^ "SMWCon Fall 2013 a big success". Retrieved 2013-11-06. 

Further reading

  • Software could add meaning to 'wiki' links, Matthew Sparkes, New Scientist, June 7, 2006
  • Markus Krötzsch, Denny Vrandecic, Max Völkel, Heiko Haller, Rudi Studer: Semantic WorldHeritage. Journal of Web Semantics 5/2007, December 2007.
  • (German) Struktur fürs Wiki, Rolf Strathewerd, Linux-Magazin, July 2009
  • Smart, P. R.; Braines, D.; Bao, J.; Mott, D.; Huynh, T. D.; Shadbolt, N.: Supporting Distributed Coalition Planning with Semantic Wiki Technology. In: 4th Annual Conference of the International Technology Alliance (ACITA'10).

External links

  • Official website
  • Semantic MediaWiki on
  • Semantic MediaWiki on
  • Semantic MediaWiki Community Wiki
  • Video of Nick Grandy explaining SMW at an Oxford Geek Night
  • Semantic MediaWiki: Towards WorldHeritage 3.0
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