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In software engineering, a project fork happens when developers take a copy of source code from one software package and start independent development on it, creating a distinct piece of software.

The term fork is also used in the 'wikisphere'. For instance, the above text was forked from the English Wikipedia! Most free content licenses allow people to copy material in part or whole – to create their own versions of that content: be it a cultural work, a piece of media, software, or some intellectual pursuit.

Sometimes, forking results in fragmentation, whereby two separate communities have overlapping goals. There are strengths and weaknesses to this. On the one hand, different communities can meet different needs, and problem-solve in new ways. This also keeps one cultural work from being dominated or controlled by a single individual or small subset of people. On the other hand, fragmentation can create redundancy and confusion amongst people.

Forking starts as mirroring, which is a similar concept where one site hosts identical content to another site.

See also federated wiki (wiki).

Forking vs. mirroring[edit]

A mirror website is an archive. It duplicates or re-uses content originated elsewhere (hopefully, with proper attribution) but normally is not an originator of new content.

A fork creates an entire second project, which uses a common set of content as a starting point, but then builds a community and creates its own new, unique content.

The creation of Wikivoyage after Wikitravel was sold to Internet Brands is a fork. Conversely, the various sites which merely provide an archived copy of Wikipedia content online (such as the "NationMaster Encyclopedia") without originating new content are mirrors.

On wiki farms[edit]

Forking is common on Wikia, usually because of its constant skin changes, poor community support, global blocking, social features, and / or independent servers being more versatile. Where this occurs, the abandoned Wikia version of the site – invariably left open and dormant, is commonly referred to as the 'spoon'.

Forked wiki articles on WikiIndex[edit]

From the outset of WikiIndex, the long-term goal is to have an entry – and therefore an infobox – for ALL wiki sites, even dead and/or dormant wiki. Forked wiki are treated the same, therefore, we have a specific method of dealing with forked wiki. Fundamentally, a forked wiki article will have two infoboxes, ideally on the same article. The two versions of wiki can be separated on the same page by using template:Clear, and this will prevent the prose of the forked wiki 'crowding' the infobox of the original wiki.

Mirrored wiki may be treated different to forked wiki, in that both wiki (if both remain active) will eventually contain differing content, and may ultimately form differing identities. In these instances, we would have two (or more, for multiple mirrors) page articles here on WikiIndex.