Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A New Wiki In Town

Yesterday was a red letter day in the Wiki world.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, unveiled his new search engine called Search Wikia here.

The New York Times reported "Like Wikipedia, Mr. Wales plans to rely on a 'wiki' model, a voluntary collaboration of people, to fine-tune the Wikia search engine. . . the service will rank pages based on a relatively simple algorithm. Users will be allowed and encouraged to rate search results for quality and relevance. Wikia will gradually incorporate that feedback in its rankings of Web pages to deliver increasingly useful answers to people's questions."

Unlike Wikipedia, which is run by the non-profit Wikiamedia Foundation, Wikia is a for-profit company, which plans to make money by selling ads. The start-up company has received $14 million, $10 million of which came from Amazon.

Most of the blogs that commented on the debut yesterday seemed a bit disappointed that Wikia wasn't a more sophisticated search engine. But Wales reminded everyone that, when he started Wikipedia in 2001, it only contained a few articles. When asked how long it would take Wikia to get up to speed, Wales was quoted by the IDG News Service saying, "I don't know how long it will take to reach industry-standard quality search results, but I'd say at least two years . . ."

Mr. Wales told the New York Times "I think it is unhealthy for the citizens of the world that so much of our information is controlled by such a small number of players, behind closed doors."

True to Mr. Wales vision, Wikia will be open source with its programming code and data visible to anyone.

At present, the top search engines are: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask.com. It will be interesting to see whether Internet consumers embrace Wikia.

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