On Wikia

200801062257-1Wikia launched today. I’m going to hold my tongue. It’s hard to compare anything to Google as they’ve generally done a stellar job to date.

Techcruch hates it. I’m not sure what Wikia could have done better here.

They did try to manage expectations:

To be fair, CEO Gil Penchina warned me it wouldn’t be a great product at launch. It’s simply a proof of concept of what can be created using open source software and little money, he says. Fair enough. But it’s time for Wales to be quiet, let this thing evolve or not, and eventually let the software do the talking.

Of course there are some obvious problems here. Searches for Viagra, Levitra, Mortgage, etc. all turn up spam.

Which makes sense. They used their crawler Grub (similar to Spinn3r) to aggregate content but they’re only using a simple term weighting algorithm.

Basically it’s search ALA 1995.

Perhaps this is just due to the rise in Apple expectations. You can’t release a product until it’s perfectly polished. No more evolutionary adaptation unless it’s in another major rev of the product.

They’re at least direct about it:

We are aware that the quality of the search results is low..

Wikia’s search engine concept is that of trusted user feedback from a community of users acting together in an open, transparent, public way. Of course, before we start, we have no user feedback data. So the results are pretty bad. But we expect them to improve rapidly in coming weeks, so please bookmark the site and return often.

Perhaps Mahalo should recognize this as a shot across their bow and ship their own search engine?

Venture Beat has more:

According to Wales, Search Wikia’s primary innovation will be to tie a user’s social network – that is, information about the user and their friends – into search results. The idea is that a user and their friends share a common set of preferences and that using that information makes search results more personalized as well as more relevant. More on that in a second.

Let’s assume for a moment that Wikia can pull it off. They build this great community and prove their idea works.

Why can’t Google just HIRE these people away and have them improve the rankings of Google?

  1. I’m still trying to figure out why this will (or won’t) be better than Metaweb. As for Mahalo, I totally agree, they’re the ones that have the most to be worried about, though to me Mahalo seems more like an SEO play still remaining dependent of the major search engines for traffic that they then hope to monetize.

    What continues to shock me, is why they think that Google search results are so bad, and seem to lack a fundamental understanding for the scale issues. Not to mention, that Google’s heuristics are getting pretty damn good. Last night, I did a query on “tons to pounds conversion” and got a direct answer. Your comments on TechCrunch about Google being better positioned for throwing people at the problem on top of their algorithmic search makes a lot more sense than the bottom up search engine that Wikia is trying to put together.

    Metaweb makes sense to me because they’re doing something new in building the relationships between objects, which could make a nice companion to a traditional search engine.

  2. I think Jimmy’s commentary against Googel is more political rather than technical or economic.

    He’s right that Google has a lot proprietary technology which isn’t open but this isn’t a reason to launch a startup.

    Another thing that dawned on me today. Is Wikia going to share all their open ranking and certification data? If this turns out to be the competitive edge of Wikia couldn’t Google or another search engine just use the open data to tune their ranking algorithms?

    Still scratching my head here……

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