New Wikipedia feature: reference previews to speed up the identification of sources

8. July 2021
Lena Meintrup Johanna Strodt

With the new feature Reference Previews, a footnote can be displayed while reading an article by using the mouseover effect (hovering over a link with the mouse pointer). This makes it a lot easier to read a Wikipedia article because the reader need not interrupt the flow of reading by jumping to the bottom of a page to view a source. The community expressed this wish to be able to preview footnotes to Wikimedia Deutschland’s Technical Wishes team.

In the Technical Wishes Project, volunteers from Wikimedia projects collaborate with Wikimedia Deutschland team members. The project provides contributors to Wikipedia and to other Wikimedia projects such as Wikimedia Commons with new and better features. Recently, we announced the news of the release of the new FileImporter; you can find a complete list of all projects here. 

What exactly are reference previews?

Until recently, readers of an article had to jump to the bottom of a page to find and read a footnote. Readers of Wikipedia articles in particular saw this as a problem because it interrupted their reading flow. Readers wanted to get a preview of the footnote or reference while still reading the article. 

Here’s what it looks like: When the reader places their mouse pointer over the reference number in the article, a preview of the source pops up.

How does the preview work?

The feature builds on the Page Previews feature, which has been available for the German Wikipedia since April 2018. Both preview pop-ups look similar and work in a similar way – irrespective of whether you hover the mouse cursor over an article link, over a footnote or reference. The feature shows a reference in a small pop-up window when you hover the mouse over its number ([1]). Clicking on this number still jumps to the reference list at the bottom. Because the pop-up contains a heading and icon, it’s easy to identify the type of reference.

What does this mean for handling Wikipedia sources? 

Reader tests show that displaying the source using the new feature helps to more quickly  establish the trustworthiness of a source. Now you can clearly identify the type of source at a glance.

Who can use this feature?

All Wikipedia users, including readers, will have this community-suggested feature enabled. However, if desired, Reference Previews can also be turned off in the settings.

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