Wikia Search Alpha Goes Live Today

Wikia Search is the new user-based, or social search engine. The brain child of Wikimedia Foundation’s founder and CEO Jimmy Wales.

Wales admits that comparing Wikia Search on day one to Google isn’t possible. Here’s what he said on Tech Crunch:

“(Wikia Search) is a project to *build* a search engine, not a search engine … So the comparison to Google on day one is just mistaken. Google didn’t launch a project to build a human-powered search engine, they launched an algorithmic search engine with a clever new idea. So they didn’t have to wait for the humans to come in and start building it. We aren’t even running with a real index yet, just a placeholder index. Yeah, the search sucks today. But that’s not the point. The point is that we are building something different.”

Will it be a Google killer? Certainly not for sometime. The whole concept is that people will be driving how the search engine works. That takes time. The project is said to be based on the following four principles (from the about Wikia Search page:

“Our Four Organizing Principles (TCQP) – the future of Internet Search must be based on:

1. Transparency – Openness in how the systems and algorithms operate, both in the form of open source licenses and open content + APIs.
2. Community – Everyone is able to contribute in some way (as individuals or entire organizations), strong social and community focus.
3. Quality – Significantly improve the relevancy and accuracy of search results and the searching experience.
4. Privacy – Must be protected, do not store or transmit any identifying data.”

I’ll have to be honest I’m not exactly sure how giving people the ability to edit and create entries that will be displayed when you search for something is going to make “search” better. It does sound like there is a big chance for manipulation. All the talk is about Google’s strangle hold on the search industry, and that they use ever changing algorithms to produce their results, and getting the general public involved is the way to make this better. Actually Google also has a human side to it’s results. A fact seemingly not known to many. At Google they call them Quality Raters. The Quality Raters are paid telecommuters (meaning the work from home) that spend their time rating how well the search queries match up to the results that the algorithms are producing, including whether or not someone is trying to manipulate the algorithms for their own use. So, in that way they also have human controls to improve the quality of their search.

It will be interesting to see how the quality will be controlled with Wikia Search. Although Wikepedia is smashing hit and I believe that collaboration is the wave of the future. It is true that just because something is a product of the masses, doesn’t mean it is good. I guess time will tell…

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