Hi Anders,

some notes about possible reasons below. As a data analyst in the
Foundation's Readers department, I am tracking our overall pageview
numbers on a monthly basis, which we report to the WMF board alongside
other metrics about editor activity etc. (This is also publicly
available at [1], where this recent pageview decline had already been
remarked upon earlier. What's more, you can check this regularly
updated chart for a visual year-over-year comparison: [2] )

There are probably multiple causes for this year-over-year decrease
observable during the last few months. We know about one of them for
certain: The recent rollout of "page previews"[3] to all but two
Wikipedia versions. This is a new software feature that shows an
excerpt from the linked article when the reader hovers their mouse
over a link. It is designed to save readers the effort of clicking
through certain links. So a decrease in pageviews was fully expected
and is to some extent actually evidence for the feature's success.
According to our A/B tests, this decrease is around 2-4% (of desktop
pageviews). We are on the other hand going to measure this new,
alternative form of reading Wikipedia (i.e. the number of previews
seen) just like we measure pageviews now; there is currently a
technical discussion about this on the Analytics-l mailing list. But
for now it is not yet reflected in our public traffic reports.

Google-referred pageviews did indeed see a year-over-year decrease of
some percent since November (but not before) [4], although this may
still not explain the entire rest of the year-over-year change in
overall pageviews. Regarding Google's Knowledge Panel - i.e. their
Wikipedia extracts that you mentioned - a research paper published
last year [5] has confirmed that it indeed has a negative effect on
our pageviews (which had long been the topic of speculation without
much actual evidence). However, Google already introduced this feature
in 2012, so it has been around over half a decade now and can't be
responsible per se for any recent drops. One would need to look for
more recent changes made by Google. (They actually made a tweak to the
panels for a particular topic category in early November [6], but to
me it seems rather unlikely to have had a noticeable effect on our
overall Google referrals.)

Likewise, the internet-wide multi-year trend towards mobile doesn't
really explain this recent trend in our total (desktop + mobile)
pageviews - as James already pointed out, just a year ago we were
actually seeing a year-over-year *growth* of several percent for an
extended time period.

Generally, keep in mind that while page requests by bots and spiders
are generally filtered out, the pageview numbers still encompass a
smaller amount of other automated views and artefacts, which can also
be responsible for sizable changes. In the data reported to the board
[1] I apply various corrections to filter out some more of these. But
the numbers at stats.wikimedia.org still include them. For example, if
you had looked at the same year-over-year change last summer, you
would have encountered an even bigger year-over-year pageview drop
which however is almost entirely spurious: An issue found and
mitigated in July/August 2016 had artificially inflated desktop
traffic up to 30% during these two months. There is a Phabricator task
to correct this in the publicly available data [7], but it is still

Besides the monthly reports of core metrics at [1] which come with
brief observations about trends, we also publish a more in-depth slide
deck about readership core metrics once per quarter.[8] The next one
will come out in two weeks and I plan to do some further analysis
(e.g. check if the decrease was focused geographically) in preparation
for that; so perhaps we will know a bit more then.

[1] https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Audiences


[3] https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Page_Previews

[4] http://discovery.wmflabs.org/external/#traffic_by_engine and
http://discovery.wmflabs.org/external/#traffic_summary , select weekly
or monthly smoothing for easier comparison, but keep in mind the
default view includes bots/spiders

[5] Connor McMahon, Isaac Johnson, Brent Hecht: "The Substantial
Interdependence of Wikipedia and Google: A Case Study on the
Relationship Between Peer Production Communities and Information
Technologies" https://www.aaai.org/ocs/index.php/ICWSM/ICWSM17/paper/view/15623
. BTW we are still looking for someone to volunteer a summary or
review of this paper for the Wikimedia Research Newsletter/ Wikipedia
Signpost, so that more community members can learn about this research
- contact me in case you're interested.


[7] https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T175870

[8] Cf. last quarter's edition:

On Tue, Jan 23, 2018 at 2:55 AM, Anders Wennersten
<m...@anderswennersten.se> wrote:
> We are seeing a steady decrease of page views to our projects (Wikipedia). 
> Nov-Dec-Jan it is decreasing in a rate of 5-10% (year-year), and for big 
> languages like Japanese,  Spanish close to 10%, or some months even more  [1]
> Is there any insights of why this is so? Could it be that Google take over 
> accesses with their ever better way of showing results direct  (but then also 
> with showing extracts of Wikipedia articles) .
> Or that our interface on mobiles is inferior so we miss accesses from mobiles 
> (now being 54% of total). Or horror of horror that users look for facts on 
> all new sites with fake news instead of Wikipedia?
> Anders
> [1] https://stats.wikimedia.org/EN/TablesPageViewsMonthlyCombined.htm
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Tilman Bayer
Senior Analyst
Wikimedia Foundation
IRC (Freenode): HaeB

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