Wikimedia Works On Search Improvements, Says It's Not Competing with Google [Updated]

Chris CrumSearchNews

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Note: This article has been updated with clarification directly from The Wikimedia Foundation.

It would appear that there is a new search engine from Wikipedia in the works - one that would surface public information from Wikipedia and its sister free knowledge projects.

"We continually work to improve how people can find and engage with this content, including but not limited to searching on Wikipedia. This is in keeping with Wikimedia’s commitment to operating in free and open way, without running ads and while protecting user privacy," a representative from the Wikimedia Foundation tells us in an email.

The Wikimedia Foundation was awarded a $250,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in September. This is for the initial phase of a project with a total budget of roughly $2.5 million.

"We should also clarify that the results of this first discovery phase of prototyping and community dialogue will help determine our next steps in development of technology in collaboration with the community," the representative said, adding that the budget is based on the budget for their planned work to "improve a variety of knowledge discovery functions on Wikipedia."

"We do not have plans to build a new search engine: our objective is to improve the existing search experience on Wikimedia projects and help people find content across the projects," they said. "As the first phase of undertaking these improvements we received a grant to research how people access and interact with Wikimedia content. The grant agreement outlines a general direction, but the results of this first phase of prototyping and community dialogues will determine our next steps, in collaboration with the Wikimedia community."

"More generally, I also wanted to clarify one issue that’s been a point of discussion: whether or not we intend to compete in the area of search with this project. This project does not aim to compete with Google or any other company. As a non-profit, our mission is to support how people interact with and discover free educational content on Wikimedia projects. Everything we create is under an open license and can be used and reused freely by everyone and for any purpose. This means everyone, including commercial entities, can and do use results of our work. This is made clear in our product roadmap, which includes releasing our findings publicly."

A document from the Knight Foundation from September was just recently made public. In that, the project is described. It's called "Knowledge Engine," which is obviously very Google-esque. According to the document, this has four stages: discovery, advisory, community, and extension. Each will take about 18 months, it says.

They're also supposedly conducting tests with potential users, creating a public-facing dashboard of key KPIs, and measuring user satisfaction, load time, API usage, etc.

The Knight Foundation's funding is specifically for the discovery stage, which began around the time of the document. It said that over the following six months, Wikimedia would seek to answer questions like: Would users go to Wikipedia if it were an open channel beyond an encylopedia?" and "Can the Wikimedia Foundation get Wikipedia embedded in carriers and Original Equipment Manufacturers?"

That second question is particular interesting.

"Knowledge Engine by Wikipedia will create a model for surfacing high quality, public information on the Internet," the document says. "The project will pave the way for non-commercial information to be found and utilized by Internet users."

It says that after 12 months, the Wikimedia Foundation will assess the progress and at the conclusion of the grant, the team will have sent the groundwork for the project to proceed to the second stage.

You can read through the full document here.

Last week, Wikimedia said Super Bowl searches show "Wikipedia is the second screen." They pointed to the large search volume and clicks leading to Wikipedia pages related to players and the game.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.