Semantic MediaWiki vs Wikibase vs Cargo
Last updated on 2024-03-03. Written by Jeroen De Dauw
What software do you need to manage data/knowledge in your wiki? Historically this was Semantic MediaWiki. Is that still the case, and how do the alternatives stack up?
No one has our level of expertise when it comes to both SMW and Wikibase. We have been significantly involved in the development of both and helped many of our customers with SMW, and some with Wikibase. We cannot say the same for Cargo, as we have not used it ourselves or gotten requests from customers yet.
The software solutions covered in this post are not standing still. If you come across something that you think is out of date, missing or otherwise inaccurate, tweet to @ProWikis.
|100s or 1000s
|28 to 50+
|Dedicated mailing list
|Track at WikidataCon
|Dozens of companies
|A few companies
|A few companies
|Programmable editing UI
|Define data where it used
|Inline query language
|Based on SQL
|Simple DB tables
|Granular access controls
Data model and storage
|Complex and fixed
|Maybe via tools
|Multiple items per page
|Wiki pages (JSON)
|MW DB (MySQL)
|MW DB (MySQL)
|MW DB (MySQL)
|GitHub (SMW org)
|Fully open source
When to use Wikibase
Wikibase serves a different usecase than Semantic MediaWiki and Cargo. You might have noticed it is the odd one out in the above comparison. This is because unlike SMW and Cargo, Wikibase was not developed for displaying and using data within the wiki itself. It was developed for collaborative creation and maintenance of a knowledge base containing data that can be used on Wikipedia and by third parties.
This makes it great for organizations that curate data for third party consumption. For instance museums and other GLAM institutions. If on the other hand, like is done in most structured wikis, you want to present the data in your wiki itself, then Wikibase is likely the wrong tool for you.
There are several potential gotchas to be aware off before starting with Wikibase:
- Wikibase is developed by Wikimedia for Wikidata. Wikidata will always be the priority.
- Much of the functionality that you see on Wikidata is not available in Wikibase. It comes from additional tools that are not part of the core Wikibase software. Some of those tools can be installed on your Wikibase instance at the cost of additional operational complexity, while others are Wikidata specific.
- There are no integrated domain-centric editing UIs. Most users of Wikibase are not running a generic knowledge base like Wikidata. Instead they are running a domain-specific knowledge base, describing one or several types of domain entities. For these cases it is nice to have an editing UI that guides the users, indicating what is required and what the domain constraints are. Such an editing experience is not yet available in Wikibase.
We are the leading provider of commercial Wikibase services with an unmatched track-record and expertise. Use our Wikibase development services, Wikibase hosting, or check out our Wikibase website for more professional Wikibase services.
When to use Semantic MediaWiki
Semantic MediaWiki is the standard software for managing data in wikis. It has been continuously developed since 2005 and has by far the biggest ecosystem and most features. There are several enterprise MediaWiki hosting companies, and they all use a Semantic MediaWiki based stack.
We believe Semantic MediaWiki is the right choice for most wikis and suggest it to be your default pick.
When to use Cargo
Cargo ties data storage directly to templates and stores the data in database tables based on those templates. This allows querying data via SQL snippets rather than SMWs dedicated query language.
If you want to run SQL queries against the structured data stored in your wiki, either from within the wiki, or from another application, then look into Cargo. If you are fine with its smaller feature set, reduced flexibility and smaller ecosystem, then it might be the right choice for you.
We want to develop a connection between Wikibase and Semantic MediaWiki and are looking for funding.
September 2020 update: A first version of Semantic Wikibase is now available.
- New extension: Wikibase Export
- Semantic MediaWiki 4.1.0 released
- Embedding External Content in MediaWiki
- SMWCon 2021
- WikidataCon 2021
- Best Responsive MediaWiki Skins
- Medik MediaWiki Skin
- Happy 20th Anniversary Wikipedia
- Semantic MediaWiki 3.2
- Local Media Support for Wikibase
- Chameleon MediaWiki Skin
- Foreground MediaWiki Skin
- Pivot MediaWiki Skin
- Tweeki MediaWiki Skin
- Semantic Wikibase Released
- Visualizing Links Between Pages
- MediaWiki Survey
- SMW vs Wikibase vs Cargo
- Using Wikidata in Your Wiki
- Visual Map Editor for MediaWiki
- WikidataCon 2019 Berlin
- Installing Extensions with Composer
- SMWCon 2019 Paris