The creator of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, has announced plans to launch a new type of search engine driven by user input. Based on the success of Wikipedia, the search will derive results from human judgment, rather than an automatic algorithm.
The Wikia corporation, plans to launch the search engine with financial backing from a range of technology companies, including online retailer Amazon. Wales claims traditional ranking algorithm’s lack the ability to accurately determine the quality of a website. “Essentially, if you consider one of the basic tasks of a search engine, it is to make a decision: ‘this page is good, this page sucks’,” says Wales, “Computers are notoriously bad at making such judgments, so algorithmic search has to go about it in a roundabout way.”
While the search engine sounds like it could provide real value for users, there has to be some way for the Wikia corporation to make money. “The revenue model for search is advertising,” said Wales, a model Google and Yahoo! have replicated with great success. But the question remains: How receptive will the wiki community be to commercializing ‘their’ search? Ryan Paul makes an excellent point in noting Wikipedia users overwhelmingly rejected advertising on the site as a means for funding future growth. Users may be reluctant to contribute to a commercial site that may end up being bought by a bigger company.
Aside from these issues, community voting websites battle with problems of their own. I’m sure many will try to develop ways to beat the system and send their websites to the top of search results. But if wikia search can combat this and other issues, the search engine has the ability to revolutionize the way people interact online. It would provide users with greater value, and could hold the key to overthrow Google. If you’d like to get involved, check out the Search Wikia page and let us know what you think!