Monday, July 02, 2012

#Kiwix - the interview

#Kiwix is the tool that allows you to read the content of a Wiki offline. It has been developed with Wikipedia in mind but is equally usable for Wikisource or Wikibooks. I am really happy to have interviewed Emmanuel who knows all the ins and outs of this wonderful piece of software.
Thanks,
     GerardM


What is Kiwix and what is it used for
Kiwix is a software that wants to enable people to read Web contents without internet connection. It's a reader which works with ZIM files containing all the content. It's used to access Wikipedia offline, by reading pre-packaged Wikipedia ZIM files. It's mainly used by people who want to have an encyclopedia, but are too poor to have access to the internet. It's also used,for example, by travelling people (plane, ship, train), prisoners and students at school. 

Can you tell us something about its popularity
We have users all over the world and the audience is increasing quickly: we have had 25.000 downloads of Kiwix in May

In how many languages is Kiwix supported 
Thank to the Translatewiki Web site andits community, Kiwix is localised in more than 80 languages. We also provide content (ZIM files), mainly Wikipedia, in around 25 languages. But we want to do more: thanks to a grant of WMCH soon we will offer ZIM files of Wikipedia in all languages

How do you support languages written in scripts like Malayalam, or Tibetan
Contents are Web contents and Kiwix itself is a sort of browser getting the Web pages from the ZIM file instead of the Web. So, we do not have special handling in Kiwix itself to render the contents. Everything should be well organised in the ZIM file, for example by using Web fonts. But, from the Kiwix fulltext search engine point of view, this is challenging. Natural languages have a lot of particularities. Kiwix uses the Xapian search engine and tries to integrate CLucene. We do our best with them to offer the smoothest user experience possible. 

Do you provide fonts with Kiwix for the languages that use these scripts
The Wikipedia ZIM files we are preparing still do not provide the Web fonts. Already for a few months, the integration of Web fonts has been a part of the Wikimedia projects, so we have to fix that ASAP, this is not a big challenge.

For some languages like Chinese and Serbian, we show the content in two scripts ... Can Kiwix do this as well ?
Kiwix does not provide any transliteration tool for now, but all the technology is already there in the soft. We use a powerful unicode library called ICU (http://site.icu-project.org/) which can do that. We
want to use it to allow users to do custom transliterationsC++ developer wanted there!

Kiwix uses the OpenZIM format ... can you tell us more about this format
The format is called ZIM. There is a volunteer driven project called openZIM  created a few years ago to specify the format and develop a standard library. The ZIM format allows to put millions of contents together, to compress a part of them, and add Metadata. In the end, you get only one file, which is, at the same time, extremely compressed and allows a constant and quick random access.

Nowadays, many publications are in the EPUB standard ... can Kiwix handle this as well
Kiwix is not able to deal with EPUB, but in the future it will. We think EPUB & ZIM format are complementary and we want Kiwix being able to perfectly deal with EPUB. Our plan is to integrate "Monocle" to do that. Also there, developers are wanted.

How do people find content available for Kiwix
Kiwix has its own content managerso you can download content from Kiwix itself. But you may also download the ZIM file from the Kiwix Web site (http://www.kiwix.org) or using the Mediawiki Collection extension.


In the future, we want to have a platform (something like Itunes) to offer  really easy to find and download contents (both ZIM and EPUB files). We have started a project in that perspective. We need your support! 

What is your biggest challenge at this moment in time with Kiwix
Building Kiwix-mobile for Android. We will have a first release in autumn. But we have many other projects running at the same time and others for which we still need volunteers.

Thank you
Emmanuel
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