Wikipedia announces search engine plans

Written by Brett Thomas

March 12, 2007 // 11:01 a.m.

Tags: #google #search-engine #wikia #wikipedia #yahoo

A person's chosen search engine is as much a matter of personal taste as anything. Though most will get the job done, many people prefer a certain site over the others for their searching needs.

Largely, most users find one of the big three to be best for them - Google, Yahoo!, or MSN Live. Well, there may be a new one coming into town - Wikia, Inc. has announced its plans for a search engine.

For those of you who haven't really heard of Wikia, Inc., I can't really say I blame you. But it is exactly what its name comes closest to - it's the non-profit company that owns Wikipedia. What can Wikia bring new to the searching world? Well, the jury is still out on that - Wikia's founder, Jimmy Wales has gone on record saying there's really not much to searching.

"There's nothing special about the way Google or Yahoo! search web pages," Wales said in a recent interview. "The idea that Google has some edge because they've got super-duper rocket scientists may be a little antiquated now." But even if Google still does have those rocket scientists, the plans for Wikia's engine are nowhere near something Google would do.

What Wales would like to bring to the party is a little more open-source knowhow, letting its users tweak the way the engine scans, sorts and filters. By making the search open-source, enthusiastic users can fix problems before they become exploited (like has happened in the past with every other search engine). The goal is to let humans do what algorithms cannot - correct, modify, and adapt to an ever-changing world wide web.

Along the way, it could completely remove the threat of "pay to play," where companies pay search engines to drop their names on the top of the relevance stack. Of course, that is a double-edged sword - a completely open-source engine means the possibility that companies could hire people to tweak the search in their favour, much like they pay people to build them Wiki entries. A screening process would need to be implemented, hopefully one run by a little better choice than Essjay.

Rumours of the upcoming site started to show up at the end of last year, but this is the first time that the site's founder has really begun a public push to get attention for it. Wales hopes that Wikia's search engine would ultimately capture more than 5% of the search market, though he didn't specify a timetable for when he'd like to see that happen. The new search engine will be unrelated to Wikipedia or any other project currently going on under Wikia's umbrella.

Do you have a thought on the new search? Let us hear about it in our forums.

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