This is the year-end email that has been sent to Kiwix donors and supporters in December 2020.


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Who is this?

My name is Stéphane, I’m the co-founder of Kiwix, and this is a short email to tell you what we did this year with your money. Thanking you for your support is one thing, but my guess is that you’ll feel even better knowing it’s been put to good use.

A lot happened this year thanks to your help. Not all of it is listed here, but this is a good overview. So buckle up, and happy reading.


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We fixed Wikipedia

We finally -finally!- fixed the bugs that had been plaguing the update of Wikipedia. It being by far our most popular content, this was a priority.

It feels like a lifetime ago, but up until June this year the last available version for most of the largest wikis was from the end of 2018. It took a lot of work from a lot of people, but we finally fixed it, and more. During this 18 month span Wikipedia in English went from 5.1 to 6.2 million articles (which if you count redirects, internal links and so on adds up to 100 million items to zim up in total), but zimming time went from three weeks (or more) to 5-13 days (depending on the servers we use).

I wish I could tell you how we did it, but it involved some C++, Typescript, and sacrificing a few chicken. Only two of these three worked, and there’s still some discussion about which.

Under the hood

If you want to see real magic in action, you can now check every single zim update live as they go, thanks to our Zimfarm. The default setting is to update every single file every month or so.

We also fixed this, this, and that

We also fixed the Gutenberg library scraper. More than 60,000 public domain books in English, but also in French, German, Chinese, etc. That’s were we learned that we’re not just helping people with poor internet connection: Gutenberg online is/was also blocked in Italy and Germany because of abusive copyright claims. Other improvements / fixes: OpenEdx MOOCs, YouTube scrapers. All their code is free for the taking on Github.

Fixes aplenty on Android and Desktop as well, though the latter is still a pain and nowhere where we want it in terms of design. But we’ll get there.

For those of you using Kiwix on iOS or Mac, know that you owe it all to a single volunteer named Chris. The deal is that we send him Swiss chocolate every year and he keeps on helping (I think it’s a great deal). Same thing for Kiwix-JS, which is developed in part by an Oxford gentleman who makes sure that very old computers (like, Windows Vista type of things) still can browse offline. If you use Kiwix via Chrome, Firefox or Edge, him and a French fellow are also to be thanked.

Last but not least, we implemented the WebP (for images) and Zstandard (for index) compression formats in our zim files. meaning that they’ll be both 15% smaller and 30% faster to search.

Number three will shock you

I should have started with this when I mentioned this was not a newsletter, but we launched a blog this year, as well as a subreddit. All channels have their own audiences (we’re also on Twitter and Facebook) but if you want to know what’s up, these are the places.


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Among the bestest

We were among this year’s Falling Walls winners in Digital Education, which was nice (link will show you my face, whose niceness is more arguable). The prize is Berlin-based and ties a lot with the Wall. Answering interview questions about it was both interesting and made me feel old.

Another pleasant recognition came from Github, who is already hosting our many repositories for free. We have been included into their Arctic vault, a project dedicating to storing open-source code into a literal, uh, vault in the Arctic. If you’ve heard of that place in the Svalbards that stores seeds should humanity collapse, this is it.

Why we fight

You might not be aware of this but Kiwix is a non-profit and most of our users are in the Globlal South. Kiwix is in African schoolsAndean rural community centers or even US prisons (as well as French, Swiss, German, and Belgian ones. As someone once put it to me: “don’t brag about it because helping criminals get an education is not popular”. Good thing I wasn’t listening).

Among the many cool projects using Kiwix for their own mission this year were Thaki and Labdoo, who distribute refurbished computers in schools in Lebanon and the wider world; Orange Telecom, who deployed Kiwix-serve as a zero rated solution for 11 African countries; Slam out Loud, teaching poetry and arts to Indian Kids. And many more : the only country where there were no downloads of Kiwix material this year was… North Korea (joke’s on them: we’re there anyway).


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I zim it, but now you zim it too

Two releases – technically done in 2020 but won’t be publicized before January so consider this privileged access:

A simplified Hotspot installer access for those of you wanting to have Wikipedia (and more) on their Raspberry Pi. We’re trying to streamline this as much as possible, and even prepared pre-made Wikipedia images to save people the trouble of going through a still clunky dashboard. Only in English at the moment, but French, German and Spanish should be next. We are also working an easier way to select content (Q2 hopefully?). is a website that allows you convert almost any website to the zim format so that you can browse it offline. Works on Android and Kiwix-serve only so far because it involves some very techy tech, but roll out to other platforms will take place over the course of 2021. Try it, and let me know.


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There would be more, but this is already getting longer than expected. Thank you again for your support of Kiwix. Enjoy the end of year break, and best wishes for 2021!