Julien Gattelier
Julien Gattelier. Photo by Julien Gattelier (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The Web is in a constant state of change – in speed, efficiency and the evolution of technologies, like virtual reality or new programming languages. In other words, even experts need to read up on changes to stay abreast of the latest developments. This is why MDN web docs is such a vitally important resource for everyone who develops websites, applications and software for the Internet ecosystem.

“Basically, MDN is a Wikipedia of Web technologies,” says Julien Gattelier, a Paris based engineer who translates MDN content from English to French, as a volunteer.

1,400 individuals a month contribute to this vast online resource that contributes to a healthier Internet by boosting the Web literacy of 7.5 million monthly users. In all, the MDN contributor community supports 48 languages. 

“If you’re developing a website or want to understand some basic concept of the fundamental bricks of the Web, MDN can explain it to you,” says Gattelier, describing a learning area with both basic and advanced tutorials, and interactive examples of code.

“MDN helps Web users become creators,” he says.

MDN started 12 years ago as the Mozilla Developer Network, and evolved through open source community contributions to become a favorite of the technology industry.

In October 2017, Microsoft, Google, Samsung and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) all formally endorsed MDN and became founding members of MDN’s product advisory board.

“There should be a single, canonical source which is community-maintained and supported by all major vendors,” said Erika Doyle Navara from Microsoft in a blog post.

Gattelier says the announcement was no surprise to contributors.

“I’m maintaining some HTML sections, for example, which means I read the English edits each day. I noticed for months that the Microsoft Edge browser documentation team had been doing hundreds, if not thousands, of edits to improve compatibility data on MDN,” he says.

Since discovering MDN four and half years ago, Gattelier now typically works on MDN around 9-10 hours a week. He sometimes attends meetups in Paris, but says most contributors interact in online forums, IRC chat rooms or on GitHub for more technically oriented conversations.

“What drives me, is that I learn by doing it. It’s a bit egoistic in that I learn for myself. But secondly, making this documentation available for a larger audience like the French-speaking community, extends the reach it can have,” Gattelier explains.

This is true. MDN reported record user and contributor growth in 2017 thanks in part to technical and design improvements and fresh content. The countries with the most users? The United States, India, China – and France!

Further reading:

Learn web development, MDN web docs