(As of December 30, 2013, I am involved with MDN for 4 years.)
While going through lots of pages, I have seen ones with pretty good information but also some survivals from the past: Occasionally you find version data like “NES3.0”, which has nothing to do with entertainment by Nintendo, but dates back to the Netscape Enterprise Suite / Server. I also noticed that we had MediaWiki and MindTouch DekiWiki before Kuma, as still some odd markup is decorating parts of our documentation.
At the same time the MDN teams (both, writers and Kuma developers plus our volunteers) were busy with a major redesign of the site, which has launched successfully on December 9. The beta we ran two months before launch helped us enormously to gather feedback and to improve. For details, have a look at the Mozilla Hacks article about the redesign.
Where had contents come from originally? How did MDN grow up? Let’s take an example JS reference page and have a look at what has happened over the years.
DevEdge, 2000 - 2005 [Image, archive.org]
In 2003 a team at Netscape (including Eric Meyer) overhauled the site to show a cross-browser, standards-based, accessible and user-controllable website: Netscape DevEdge Redesigns As Standards Showcase. The appearance of the content did not change significantly on our RegExp test page, but look ma, no tables!
On October 12, 2004, the popular developer website was shut down by AOL.
MDC (MediaWiki), 2005 - 2008 [Image, archive.org]
Mitchell Baker and others “reached an agreement with AOL that allows us to post, modify, and create new documents based on the former Netscape DevEdge materials”. In other words, what happened to the Mozilla source in 1998, finally worked for Netscape’s developer documentation as well: It became open source. Deb Richardson joined the Mozilla Foundation as a Technical Editor and lead the new DevMo project for community driven developer documentation.
MediaWiki was set up and DevEdge contents got imported (
$migration = 1;).
The design is white and blue again. The layout changed to a typical MediaWiki
powered site. For the first time there is a sidebar on the left containing
wiki-specific links and tools.
The documentation is editable by anyone from now on. For the first time contents were translated into other languages. A new collaborative element in Mozilla spheres was born and anyone is welcome to help making it better and to share knowledge.
Sheppy joined Mozilla in April 2006.
Large contents of XULPlanet.com got migrated to MDC in 2008 (
MDC (MindTouch Deki), 2008 - 2011 [Image, archive.org]
All contents were migrated from WikiText to HTML and DekiWiki templates (
$migration++) and a new design
shipped, too. Again white and blue are the dominating colors. On our test page, the toolbox
sidebar on the left is no more. Instead, the table of contents is floating right
to the main article. Tags and file attachments are now part of the page. The wiki
tool links have moved to the top along with the breadcrumb navigation. The content
itself was still almost the same - only minor changes.
MDN (MindTouch Deki), 2011 - 2012 [Image, archive.org]
Redesign time! No wiki engine change or migration. Just a redesign! The colors changed to a more dark skin. Header and footer were now black. The main article looks like it is on a piece of paper and the content was emphasized from the rest of the site. It seems to me this design was the first one that changed the appearance and the colors more drastically than any other redesign in the past. Our RegExp test page got minor content additions and at least does not talk about “NES” anymore.
MDN (Kuma), 2012 - 2013 [Image, archive.org]
Kuma. Forked from
Kitsune in early 2011 and
launched on August 3, 2012,
is a Mozilla-built wiki platform based on Django with an own “KumaScript” macro
system which uses Node.js. You have guessed it: All contents were migrated from
DekiWiki to the Kuma platform (
$migration++). As you can see on our page, the
design and the content did not change much. I think most people did not even notice the new engine
under the hood (besides the fact, that MDN was now reachable again and did not fail with
one of the DekiWiki errors or performance issues we have been dealing with for months).
One minor thing I like to mention: We added a list of contributors to every page
and I think that was an important step as still lots of people do not know that MDN
is wiki. Just hit edit and kick some ass! It’s easy as that! (even our beloved
spammers found out).
MDN (Kuma), 2013 - present [Image]
- A sidebar on the left offers links to the properties and methods that belong to object we are looking at.
- Page titles are updated to the correct and full API name.
- Pages are updated to be no longer Gecko-specific. Browser-specific information lives under the “Browser Compatibility” section.
- Every page consists at least of the sections Summary, Syntax, Description, Examples, Specifications and Browser compatibility.
- Tags are added for best results with the new ElasticSearch search engine.
- And finally: Links pointing to redirects and odd markup from the past wiki engines have been fixed. Lots of house cleaning.
2014 and onward
Long journey. Still here?
Do you know the value of
$migration? In December, Will Bamberg migrated
so there is another
$migration++. Maybe I have forgotten about other
projects. Lots of things from the old mozilla.org site probably. The point is:
MDN is huge, it is a source of infinite information, but the quality is variable.
Contents have been added and added through migrations and volunteers.
With improved navigation and the team looking at content structures and information
architecture, much more of these contents become visible.