Wikia Search Plans Progressing

Jimmy Wales continues to press ahead with his search engine plan. According to this article in Yahoo, “Wales said collaborative search technology could transform the power structure of the Internet”.

His plan is to implement a collaborative search model working within Wikia, Inc. which, unlike Wikpiedia, is a commercial company. According to the Yahoo! article, the company is aiming to capture up to 5% of the overall search market. Wikia has received $4M in investments from angels, as well as a “very large investment” from Amazon.

This is all fine. The troubles I have with this plan are two fold:

  1. Building a search engine that handles a lot of search traffic takes mega bucks, not $4M
  2. User reviewed search engine results sounds cool, but is likely to run into the same problems that Wikipedia itself does. The most popular pages will get a lot of scrutiny, but everything around the edges will be subject to abuse.

What I like about it, however, is that the most popular pages will get a lot of scrutiny. In link based algorithms, very competitive terms still frequently show sites with relatively little added value competing for revenue dollars. A human review process will make that a lot more difficult.

Still, all in all, I think that setting up a good process for the collaborative definition of search engine results will be very, very challenging. I also think that the best search engine results would come from a combination of linking algorithms, measuring human interaction with the web pages of each site, and manual human editing by a person who is receiving a salary from the search engine (so their motives are crystal clear).

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