Another week, another search engine trying to take Google on. This time it’s Wikia Search – the brainchild of Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia. He’s been speaking about his people-powered search engine at the Global Brand Forum in Singapore.
He complains that Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft dominate the search market and that people are concerned about this. He claims people don’t want their traffic and editorial control of the internet filtered through just two or three sources.
That’s fair enough, but if consumers really aren’t keen on their browsing habits being subject to Google’s whims, then there are already plenty of alternatives. In fact Wikipedia has a list of search engines that is 269 sites strong, and undoubtably growing every day. Consumers are either happy to use Google or whatever comes installed by default on their machines, or they make a change themselves.
Jimmy Wales goes on to say that Wikia Search will be open – unlike the “black boxes” that run the big search engines. Those black boxes are quite crucial – they prevent unscrupulous marketeers from gaming the system to get their products to the top. If Wikia Search gets any market share, then it’ll be drowning in spam unless they can tap into the vast network of bordering-on-pschopathic spam fighters from Wikipedia.
On that subject, much like every other important crowdsourced service, Wikia Search depends wholly on the “network effect” – the effect that says that the usefulness of a service is directly proportional to the amount of users it has. Basically it’s trapped in a vicious cycle – if the results are rubbish, then no-one will use it, and if no-one uses it, then the results won’t get better.
So what are the results like at the moment? A quick search for Tech Digest (pictured above) shows the top result as Blyk, followed by BSkyB, then Ramblin’ Wreck – the mascot from Georgia Tech University, followed finally by Tech Digest below a delighful picture of the adorementioned Ramblin’ Wreck. Not a fantastic result, especially considering the three results above have little-to-no relevance to us.
Sure, you could argue that then it’s up to the searcher to rate his or her results for the next person to come along (and if you repeat the search you’ll find that I have), but most people don’t have that altruistic streak required for this project to succeed on the large scale.
Wikia Search is a lovely idea, but I doubt it has the ability to really present Microsoft and Yahoo, let alone Google, with much of a challenge in the long term.
(via Yahoo! News)