Some years ago now, The Wikimedia Foundation finally closed down active deployment of their multi-million dollar communications product called Flow.
It was a MediaWiki extension that turned Wikipedia talk pages into Reddit style structured threads. Supposedly easier to use than plain Wikitext talk pages, it proved highly unpopular with most established users and was rejected by the community.
For reasons that should be obvious, the Wikimedia was unwilling to completely discard something they had spent so much money on. Development continued, but it was only enabled on some smaller Wikimedia projects, on some pages.
Talk pages consultation 2019
The Wikimedia Foundation, not to be put off by the failure of Flow, has decided to try again. But this time, they hope, things will go better.
They have started a consultation, the goals of which are;
Building features on top of wikitext talk pages, to make them easier and more efficient.
Using Visual Editor on talk pages, with extra features.
Building a new software feature that isn’t StructuredDiscussions/Flow.
Building on top of the existing StructuredDiscussions/Flow feature.
Building more than one solution – it’s possible that we define separate sets of requirements for user talk conversations, content/project page conversations, common workflows and RFCs, and that there are two (or more) different features.
Something completely different that we haven’t considered yet.Talk pages consultation 2019
They have also stated the “non-goals”, which are things that won’t happen.
Off-wiki discussion platform – Discussions need to be on the wikis, using Wikimedia accounts.
Temporary content – Discussions need to be stored on wiki, so they can be found and referenced later.
Tools for a niche audience – Discussions are designed for everyone, with equity in mind. We’re not building a tool only for a subset of users (e.g., experience, language, preferred device.)
A social network per se – Discussions on Wikimedia should primarily be in service of improving content on the wiki.
Real-time discussions – Real-time discussions have value, but our current focus is on asynchronous discussions for the reasons mentioned in points above.
The status quo – Leaving talk pages exactly as they are.Talk pages consultation 2019
The status quo clause.
It should be noted, that even before going into the consultation process, The Wikimedia Foundation has ruled out: “The status quo – Leaving talk pages exactly as they are.”
Therefore, talk pages will change, it just isn’t stated yet exactly how they will change, and perhaps feedback may help direct that. More likely however, is that the direction is already set along the lines of what is outlined below.
The planned implementation.
The current plan appears to be to build an enhanced “flow-style” wikitext mode into the Visual Editor, and then enable the Visual Editor in the talk namespace, that is to say on all talk pages. The current schedule suggests that this would be enabled in the last quarter of 2019, or perhaps early 2020.
Currently the Visual Editor is enabled on article pages already, it is optional whether you use it, however not many people do. It was originally intended to be enabled by default for new users, but that was never agreed on.
It is probable that “flow-style” Visual Editor for talk pages will also be optional, something that would allow existing editors to continue using plain wikitext as they do now. This avoids one of the main problems with the original flow product, which was mandatory and fully replaced the wikitext with it’s structured implementation.