As a participant in the human-powered search field, I’ve been very interested to see what Jimmy Wales and his for-profit Wikia Search would add to the mix. Presumably the legend of Wikipedia would have something new and exciting for us as he attempts to “fix” search. Well, giving us results 11-20 on the same page as the first 10 results is maybe a little exciting. Otherwise, I don’t get it.
Maybe it’s not fair to judge a project that begs for human participation but launches with almost none. After all, Wales has said that when Wikipedia launched, the “Africa” page’s content consisted of the line “Africa is a continent.” On the other hand, Wikipedia launched with no eyes on it; not so for Wikia Search. For such a high-profile launch, this should have been left to bake a while longer so people could get a better idea of the vision.
As it is, you get poor results coupled with empty “mini-articles” and the opportunity to use social features like photos, profiles, “friends”, etc. Not exactly cutting edge, and personally I still don’t get why anyone thinks people want social features baked into their search engine. While we offer commenting on Bessed, we have no mechanism for people to open accounts and share among each other because we can’t see the purpose in it, or at least we don’t think people will use it to any extent. It seems to make more sense for a Facebook or Myspace to start a search engine than it does to start a new search engine and then try to add the social features. But then again I don’t have a lot of time to make “friends” on the Web, so maybe I’m not representative of others’ feelings about this.
It will be interesting to see what kind of participation level Wikia will get, whether the Wikipedia “magic” will rub off on a project that has a very different purpose. Of course, Wikipedia has been taking its lumps lately for becoming an insider’s kingdom, but I’m sure Jimmy Wales would be happy to have such a problem with Search Wikia. Better to have a smaller, more arrogant group snatch the keys than to have no one be interested at all.
Time will tell, but the initial take is that rushing to meet a deadline for getting Search Wikia off the ground has left it open to easy criticism.
UPDATE: Not getting the love from TechCrunch, either. I would add that I’ve been on the mailing list for Wikia and this morning Michael Arrington accused Wales of giving the New York Times permission to publish its review of Search Wikia while asking all other media to hold off. Wales denied the permission was given and said NYT jumped the gun.)
Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.