Wikia Search Has A Lot To Prove
Nobody’s sure what to expect from Wikia Search, perhaps even its founder. Even for just an alpha launch, the search critics are generally unimpressed, making one wonder just how long Jimmy Wales will have to prove his concept.
His words in The New York Times are decidedly less fiery and cloud-headed than they were a year ago. Back then Wales said search was broken, perhaps to the surprise of many Google-approving information seekers, and Wikia would fix it.
This morning, though, Wales warns people not to expect a Google killer just yet, at least not at this stage. But he predicts that Wikia will eventually be a "Google-quality search engine."
If that’s the reimagined goal of Wikia a year later, then perhaps search wasn’t as broken as initially thought, just lacking in comparable quality.
But we kind of knew that already.
Nobody’s been able to knock off Google, not even companies with the biggest budgets and the best (well, the not-working-at-Google best) the current class of search engineers colleges have to offer. All of them are working on at least matching Google too.
Even if they did, perhaps an even bigger challenge would be to steal mindshare, as Google has become synonymous with search. The idea that Google is the best in the business is already quite entrenched in much of the world’s psyche.
But Jimmy’s concept is very different. It may involve robots, but it doesn’t rely on robots. It relies on humans deciding what the most appropriate results are instead of increasingly sophisticated bots guessing at what humans want.
Wikipedia’s taken its share of flack over the years, especially from academic institutions and traditionally-structured encyclopedias. Wales pulled that project through and made it a household resource. So at least his track record is good.
However, just as everybody with a stake in the information presented at Wikipedia is prone to manipulate it where they can, Wikia Search faces the same type of inherent flaws. It’s an open source project, and the algorithm isn’t a carefully guarded secret to prevent gaming.
Matt Cutts has already been tinkering around there, and Marketing Pilgrim’s Andy Beal predicts that SEOs will eventually kill it (assuming Wikia gains some critical mass, or at least impresses more than it has so far.
"If Wikia achieves any measurable market share, it’s going to face a direct onslaught–something that might be hard to battle, when you have such an open-door policy," said Beal.