Wikia Search Goes Online Next Week3:31 PM EST Wed. Jan. 02, 2008
Wikia co-founder and chairman Jimmy Wales announced the public will get its first view of Wikia Search, an open source, community-driven search engine, on January 7. Wales admits his company's search engine is not an immediate challenger to Google or Yahoo, but hopes the community construction of the search engine will bring increased transparency to the method by which search results appear.
On Monday, search enthusiasts can start building Wikia Search by filtering and ranking search results using open-source software and community-based editorial influence that will result in a more transparent process that allows end-users to see how search results are obtained. Wales says he hopes to have an index of between 50 to 100 million Websites when the search engine launches. "This is the public launch of a full-scale, high quality search engine," he says. "We're looking at every point in the process to see where we can push the editorial control out into the community."
Wales is aware of the reports eager to position this as another Google vs. Wikipedia-style battle, and he acknowledges Wikia Search is launching to "change how the industry works" while admitting his company is taking a different approach. "All of the software we're creating is going to be open-source," he says. "One of the things that's really important to us is it's essentially a political point."
Wales says pretending search results come from "some magic algorithm" doesn't help the concept of democracy or transparency, which goes against the characteristics the Web embodies. "All of these things are parts of the puzzle, but it's all going to be released under free license," he says. "The amount of human editorial influence will be much higher than anything we've seen before."
Despite the likelihood Google and Yahoo will continue their dominance in the search engine market, Eric Raymond, President Emeritus and co-founder of the Open Source Initiative, says Wikia's initiative is an inherently positive foray. "More open-source competition is always good; even when it doesn't achieve huge market- or mind-share, it keeps incumbents healthily scared," he says. "I'm glad Wikia is happening, if only because somebody needs to keep Google nervous."