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Wikimedia Foundation launches all-new Wikipedia app

The Wikimedia Foundation has redesigned its app for iOS and Android, with new features including editing and saving pages for offline reading.

Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

There are several options available for those looking to muck about on Wikipedia on mobile, including paid and free third-party apps with various features. The Wikimedia Foundation has had its own official app since 2009, but it had been rating fairly poorly compared to, say, Wikipanion or Das Referenz.

Today, the Foundation has unveiled an all-new, redesigned official Wikipedia app, with a focus on speed -- addressing the biggest complaint users had about the old app.

"The updated app has been totally rewritten from the ground up in native code. So from a technical perspective it is a brand new app with many of the same features, while also introducing new ones," product manager Dan Garry told CNET.

"With this new rebuild, our primary focus was on speed: how quickly the app starts, how fast pages and images load, and how quickly search results are returned. The result is a snappy experience allowing Wikipedia readers to get to the content they're looking for faster than ever before."

In addition, the new app adds the ability, for the first time, to edit Wikipedia; a list of recent pages, so you can navigate back to a page you had previously visited quickly and easily; the ability to save favourite pages; and a new feature called Wikipedia Zero, a partnership with mobile network providers to provide Wikipedia free of data charges in developing economies.

"Using user research, we also focused on making existing features better. We know that a lot of people love getting lost in Wikipedia, following link after link -- that's why we have a viewing history allowing users to find their way back to where they came from. You can also save pages for offline reading -- great for loading up articles you want to read on the plane. All of these features make for a great reading experience," Garry said.

The new interface is clean, simple and designed very differently to the mobile site. Pulling down on any page opens a bar at the top, where you can easily find the search icon, link to the home page and a menu that shows the contents list of any given page -- moving to the main article page for a more streamlined look.

"We've incorporated ideas from a lot of the other apps out there -- both third-party Wikipedia apps and many other apps that let people browse and read longform content -- and honed in on the features that support fast searching and browsing, and clean reading experience," Garry said.

"It's the fastest way to get into the content of Wikipedia, free of charge and free of ads. Unlike some other, unofficial, third-party apps, our app will always be free of charge and ad-free. We're a nonprofit, so we're not in the business of making money from the app. This enables us to focus on creating a great distraction-free reading experience, staying true to the values that govern Wikipedia, like user privacy."

You can download the new Wikipedia free of charge from the iTunes App Store and Google Play, and contact the Wikimedia Foundation for feedback via email addresses listed on the official Wikimedia blog.