When Mahalo launched about 16 months ago, we called it a human-powered search engine and began thinking of it as a Google competitor. But it’s so-called “guide pages” for topics as diverse as the Boston Marathon and Patriotic Drunk Rednecks provide not only links but quick facts, making Mahalo an editor-driven, Wikipedia competitor as well. And with a new site-wide design launching today, Mahalo sharpens its focus on the news cycle and competes more directly with sites like CNN and a multitude of news aggregators.
CEO Jason Calacanis explains how inspiration for the new design came from noticing how a core group of about 10-15,000 visitors refresh Mahalo’s homepage several times a day to check for new featured links, which change 2-3 times per day and direct users to guide pages about current events. The new design enhances Mahalo’s standing as a news aggregator by making these featured items more prominent on the homepage. A new “top news” box (see above) dominates the top left area of the homepage and displays excerpts from relevant guide pages.
But most importantly, Mahalo now features a new “liveblog” system that delivers one liners about world news as it breaks, such as “Man arrested after threatening bar patrons with a chainsaw” and “Brooke Hogan Says ‘No’ to Playboy”. Calacanis recalls how Peter Rojas pioneered the practice of liveblogging at Engadget and suggests that Mahalo is essentially applying the same technique to the entire world. Each post to the liveblog gets placed into a category, such as “Crime” or “Politics”, and most contain at least one link to a related guide page.
While 100 full time editors work to create Mahalo’s 100,000+ guide pages, Mahalo has employed only 4-8 full time employees to work on the liveblog (although they will work collectively around the clock). To spice things up a bit, Mahalo has set up a dedicated liveblog section where you can watch the employees and ask them questions as they work live on Ustream.
Calacanis says Mahalo plans to break out each news category into its own section and give each its own Ustream feed. Later on, we may also see RSS feeds for each category and a proper API to syndicate the liveblog’s news items elsewhere.
Disclosure: We have no financial interest in Mahalo. However, Jason Calacanis is a partner on our annual TechCrunch50 Conference.