Good luck with the Google-killing, Jimbo



Mike Arrington posted what he says is an exclusive screenshot of a Wikia search page, but Jimmy Wales has said that Mike’s post is all wrong and that the screenshot has nothing to do with what he’s working on. In a comment on Rex Dixon’s blog, Mike says that his source is pretty good and he thinks what he saw was an early version of Wiki Search. Meanwhile, Rich Skrenta has said that Jimbo is also interested in reviving the Open Directory Project in some way — another attempt at people-powered search that has fallen on hard times (hat tip to Techdirt for the link).

Original post:

I’ll say this much: Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales, founder of Wikipedia, has no shortage of hubris. Instead of saying he plans to launch a “social” search engine using Wikipedia-style co-operation strategies, he comes right out and tells the Times that he’s gunning for Google. Why not reach for the top, right? So Google has a few thousand PhDs and about $40-billion in cash. Big deal.

Like many people, my first impression of Jimbo’s new idea was that it has a really dumb name: Wikiasari, a Hawaiian-Japanese hybrid that is likely to irritate people from many different cultures. And my second impression was that Jimmy has a bit of a mountain to climb with his “social search” proposal. As Pete Cashmore at Mashable notes, this kind of thing has been tried before, and more or less, well… failed.


In a comment on Niall Kennedy’s post about Wikiasari, Greg Linden of Findory — which finds relevant blog posts and news articles based on things you have read before — points to a piece that Chris Sherman wrote at SearchEngineWatch awhile back about social search and how it doesn’t really work all that well, especially as the Web continues to grow.

No matter how many people get involved with bookmarking, tagging, voting or otherwise highlighting web content, the scale and scope of the web means that most content will be unheralded by social search efforts. The web is simply growing too quickly for humans to keep up with it.

That doesn’t mean that social search efforts aren’t useful—in most cases, they are. It simply means that people-mediated search will never be as comprehensive as algorithmic search.

Mashable also makes a good point, which is that a social search engine could easily wind up being just as distorted by ulterior motives as a service like Digg is, since there would be even more incentive to get to the front page of search results. Wikipedia is already criticized for the way its internal group of editors control entries from behind the scenes. What if their actions meant the difference between hundreds of dollars and millions of dollars in advertising?

Jimbo also takes a whack at Google’s search results in the Times piece, by saying that if you search for something like “Tampa hotels” all you get “is crap.” But I searched for Tampa hotels and got half a dozen totally relevant listings for hotel directories, local Tampa search sites and so on. How is that not relevant? And how would people-powered search provide anything better for me if I wanted to find a good hotel? Jimmy’s got a bit of work to do.

Comments (4)

  1. Rex Dixon wrote::

    According to Jim, TechCrunch had it wrong –

    I dunno, trying to find out more information.


    Monday, December 25, 2006 at 12:06 pm #
  2. Mathew Ingram wrote::

    Thanks, Rex. Yeah, I saw that too — and I just saw the comment on your post from Mike. I guess we’ll have to wait for Jimbo to actually launch something before we find out whether Mike was right or not :-)

    Monday, December 25, 2006 at 12:51 pm #
  3. It looks like that screenshot is of a project which might have led to the current one, but isn’t the current one.

    That is, Wikia seemed to have had an *internal* search engine in development (which is what is in the screenshot).

    Then I conjecture someone threw money at Wales, and he decided to take it and run with an *external* (whole-web) search project.

    Monday, December 25, 2006 at 9:14 pm #
  4. Mathew Ingram wrote::

    That sounds plausible to me, Seth.

    Monday, December 25, 2006 at 9:57 pm #

Trackbacks/Pingbacks (5)

  1. on Tuesday, December 26, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    Bus Riders Get $50 Gift From Anonymous Woman * Why Encrypting BitTorrent Traffic Is Good * ‘Tis Season for Nearly Nude Calendars * NORM: Michael Jackson landing on Strip? * Porting Prototype Enumerable functions to Mootools Array objects * Good luck with the Google-killing, Jimbo

  2. albinoalbinism on Sunday, December 24, 2006 at 7:38 am

    many different cultures. And my second impression was that Jimmy has a bit of a mountain to climb with his “social search” proposal. As Pete Cashmore at Mashable notes, this kind of thing has been tried before, and more or less, well… failed. Good luck with the Google-killing, Jimbo – TechCrunchには早くもScreenshotが載っている。 [IMG] A source tells us that the working name for the project was “WikiSearch” until recently. It’s clear that Wikiasari will be focused on quality first, depth second. Search results

  3. Canadian Blogs on Sunday, December 24, 2006 at 4:56 am

    Good luck with the Google-killing, Jimbo via Mathew Ingram: December 24th, 2006 at 03:41

  4. Techmeme on Thursday, December 21, 2006 at 7:20 pm

    Mathew Ingram / Good luck with the Google-killing, Jimbo

  5. Mark Evans - Can Jimmy Wales Solve Crack the Google Puzzle? on Sunday, December 24, 2006 at 9:38 am

    […] Flush with Wikipedia’s success and obviously not busy enough with Wikia, Jimmy Wales is working on creating a new search engine called Wikisaria to take on Google and Yahoo (with some financial assistance from Amazon and a few Silicon Valley investors). “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,” Wales told the London Times. (Actually, if you do a Google search of ‘Tampa Hotels” you get a pretty good result – Tampa Guide – so perhaps that’s not the best example of what Wales wants to do). Rather than use mathematical algorithms to come up with the best search results, Wales wants to use the Wikipedia model and have humans actively involved. As much as user-generated content was one of the major themes of 2006, Google’s continued dominance of the search market continues to be one of the most fascinating elements of the Web’s evolution. What almost as fascinating is there are no lack of people and investors willing to take a crack at building a better mouse trap. Let’s see how Mr. Wales – and Amazon – make out. For more, check out Mathew Ingram, Peter Cashmore and Niall Kennedy. […]