Commons:For Wikipedians

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Welcome to Wikimedia Commons, a media file repository making available public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips) to everyone, in their own language.

Wikimedia Commons: serving the Wikimedia community and beyond

As a Wikipedian, you understand what a wiki is, how it works and how to edit; this page focuses on the important differences between Wikipedia and Commons, to help you get acquainted with how things work here.

Key differences between Wikipedia and Commons

  • Galleries, not articles: Commons does not have articles (since it is not an encyclopedia). It does have gallery pages, which perform a somewhat similar function of organising content in a selective, accessible and structured way. See Commons:Galleries. However, most of Commons' 105,713,896 files are not part of any gallery; they can be found through browsing categories or through searching.
  • No fair use — On the English Wikipedia, it is acceptable under certain strict conditions to take an image or other media file from, for example, a news website, in order to illustrate an article. However, Commons does not accept files under fair use. Commons accepts only free content images and other media files that are licensed for use by anyone, anytime, for any purpose (restrictions unrelated to copyright may apply).
  • Licensing is different — Texts from Wikipedia can be reused under Creative Commons Attribute Share-Alike (CC-BY-SA); the same is true of Commons' database and texts. However, each of the individual media files in Commons is individually licensed under a license of the author's choice (within the constraints of the licensing Commons accepts). This makes reuse outside Wikimedia more complicated. Within Wikipedia, given similar images, the freer license image should be preferred, to make reuse of the Wikipedia article easier.

Cultural differences

  • Multilingualism: while some language and cultural variations may exist within a particular language Wikipedia, in general users speak the same language. By contrast, Commons serves all language communities, and so multilingualism is embedded in the way it works – see Commons:Language policy. Internationalization is applied to content pages, templates and policy pages, and discussions may involve a mixture of languages. The lingua franca, however, is English; the English version of policies and guidelines is definitive, and because of the difficulty of translating category titles, these are usually in English (if the subject is tied to another language, that language is often used instead). See Commons:Language policy. Some pages within Commons are aimed at communities speaking other languages. There are e.g. village pumps in many languages (such as Commons:Village Pump in English and Commons:Forum in German).
  • Standards of English: because English is the lingua franca, users with relatively low levels of English may be forced to use it. This happens much less frequently on Wikipedia, where such users tend to avoid English Wikipedia and instead participate in other language Wikipedias. Native speakers of English in particular should bear this in mind on Commons: the same point expressed with relatively short sentences and more common English words will be more easily understood. Try to avoid slang, abbreviations and idioms, as meaning can be lost.
  • Communication: many users contribute to Commons only very occasionally, logging in much less frequently than on other Wikimedia projects they may participate in. For communicating with an individual user, do not assume that messages on Commons talk pages are the best way to get a user's attention. Check for the user page, recent Commons contributions, and consider email or a message on another project, either in addition to, or instead of, a Commons talk message. For community discussion, particularly on wider or more complex issues, discussions may remain open much longer than on Wikipedia, to give more time for a wide range of input.
  • Dispute resolution: formal dispute resolution, with the exception of dispute resolution around deletion, is less well developed than, for example, on English Wikipedia. No Arbitration Committee exists here, nor other bodies that can issue a ruling having a binding force to Commons' users. Even a dispute noticeboard became a failed project. Sysops have a priority over non-sysops.
  • Don't be bold: WP:Be bold is an important Wikipedia guideline. On Commons, however, for a number of reasons the basic philosophy is that users should be cautious, not bold. Change as little as possible in an already uploaded image. On Commons, being bold is rarely useful and more frequently disruptive. See Commons:Don't be bold. Bear in mind that if on Commons one makes 500 bad edits in obscure file description pages, nobody will rush to revert them – here it is not like in Wikipedia where almost all significant pages are monitored.

Policies and guidelines

Main page: Commons:Policies and guidelines.
  • Inclusion: Articles are included in Wikipedia if the subject is sufficiently notable; files are hosted on Commons if they are within the Project Scope. The scope is broadly defined as media which are educational, understood according to its broad meaning of "providing knowledge; instructional or informative". Educational content which is better hosted on other Wikimedia projects is excluded, however.
  • Not censored: Wikipedia is not censored; Commons is not censored either, although similarly, media must serve an educational purpose. In fact, on Wikipedia, images in use in articles have a demonstrated educational purpose, while on Commons "educational purpose" may be more speculative and subjective.
  • Biographies of living people: The WMF's Resolution:Biographies of living people exists on Wikipedia as WP:BLP. On Commons, this is Commons:Photographs of identifiable people.
  • NPOV: NPOV on Wikipedia is fundamental. On Commons, NPOV is much less significant. Neutrality in textual description is a consideration, but it does not generally apply to media themselves, because competing versions can co-exist as different files. Debates about which file to use in a Wikipedia article should take place on Wikipedia.
  • Verifiability: Wikipedia's Verifiability policy is fundamental. On Commons, verification is applied strictly to licensing issues (Commons:Project scope/Evidence), but less so to textual descriptions, where the author's claims are normally accepted unless there is reason to doubt them. As with all wikis, Commons is not considered by Wikipedia to be a reliable source, and image titles and descriptions on Commons may require independent sourcing before incorporation into a Wikipedia article.


  • MediaWiki: Commons uses the same MediaWiki software as Wikipedia, with a very similar configuration. Compare Special:Version here with w:Special:Version.
    • MediaWiki bugs which are particularly important for Commons are tracked via Commons:Bugs.
    • Commons uses some additional namespaces – see Help:Namespaces.
  • Gadgets: There are differences in the gadgets available: see Special:Preferences#mw-prefsection-gadgets if logged in.
  • Tools: Some familiar tools are available: Twinkle (as a user script), Navigation Popups (as a gadget), and AWB (which requires separate permissions from English Wikipedia). Huggle does not currently work on Commons. Other tools and software can be found at Commons:Tools and Commons:Software.
  • Templates: Many templates on Wikipedia have been imported to Commons. Occasionally, there are surprising differences between similar templates, and improvements on Wikipedia may not have been imported. The biggest difference is that very many Commons templates are adapted for multilingual use.
  • Bots: Commons has bots which serve a range of functions. Some bots have public source code.
  • Problem-solving: See Commons:Village pump/Technical for technical issues.

Differences in user rights

Policy enforcement/Dispute resolution

Transwiki content

  • Content hosted on Wikipedia may be transwiki-ed to Commons if the licensing terms are compatible. This allows wider use of media files, including by other language versions of Wikipedia. See Commons:Moving files to Commons.
  • Content hosted on Commons can always be transwiki-ed (copied) to Wikipedia; but there is rarely a reason to do so.
  • Content that cannot be hosted on Commons may be transwiki-ed (moved) to Wikipedia, if Wikipedia's "fair use" terms apply. This is particularly relevant when content on Commons has been or is about to be deleted due to licensing issues.
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