Wikia Will Search. But When?

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We’ve waited more than a year for Wikia to launch their human powered search engine. The project was first announced in December last year by Wikipedia/Wikia founder Jimmy Wales. The promise was to return better results than Google and other search engines, using humans to make quality decisions:

“Google is very good at many types of search, but in many instances it produces nothing but spam and useless crap. Try searching for the term ‘Tampa hotels’, for example, and you will not get any useful results…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.’ Computers are notoriously bad at making such judgments, so algorithmic search has to go about it in a roundabout way…But we have a really great method for doing that ourselves. We just look at the page. It usually only takes a second to figure out if the page is good, so the key here is building a community of trust that can do that.”

A lot has happened since that announcement. Mahalo, a Sequoia backed startup with their own approach to human powered search results, launched in May and is showing promising early growth. Meanwhile Google, perhaps somewhat annoyed by Wikia Search as well as Wikipedia’s ongoing refusal to add Google ads to their pages, announced Knol earlier this month – clearly a shot across the Wikipedia bow.

Not much on Wikia search, however. They’ve set up a page to discuss the project. In July Wikia announced the acquisition of Grub, which had technology to allow distributed web crawling by users. And an early screen shot, showing a Facebook-like profile page, was shown in South Africa in November.

Wikia Search In 2007 Or Not? Jimmy Wales Say Yes.

But the promise has been to launch Wikia Search this year, and time is fast running out. There’s just one week left in 2007.

Today a report was published that Wales, in an IRC chat, promised to make the end-of-year launch date: ” the search engine *will* launch before the end of the year, probably in private beta first, and then open to the public in early january. No specific dates are certain yet. But sooon.”

I asked Wikia CEO Gil Penchina if the quote was accurate and whether to expect a launch in the next few days. His response was “Can’t comment on exact timing.”

It won’t be important a year from now if Wikia Search launches this year or early next year. But it is time for the product to be judged on the merits of the search results created by it, not on a series of press leaks and hazy screen shots. I look forward to the launch, whether it be this year or (hopefully at the latest) next.

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