Posting my tech column that appeared in today’s New Indian Express edition. I had a lot more to say but had to stay within the 350 word limit.
Wikia Search: The Human Powered Google Competitor?
The news that is catching everyone’s attention in the tech world is the new Wikia search. It’s a new search engine that has close relationship with its better known cousin, Wikipedia. Infact, they share the same founder, Jimmy Wales.
Wikia Search is an idea that fundamentally uses people to refine and better its search results, pretty much the same way Wikipedia uses people to bring out a better encyclopedia.
Jimmy Wales has been very pro-transparency and at many times I have heard him speak his discomfort about one company controlling a lot of our info and search habits. And we know that the “one company” is Google. From my take, I don’t think he is against Google because of its monopoly but because it isn’t as open and transparent with the data as it should be. And that’s exactly what Wales and his team are trying to do with Wikia.
Wikia will publish the full code of the search tool in the spirit of open source.
He says, “I believe that search is a fundamental part of the infrastructure of the Internet, and that it can and should therefore be done in an open, objective, accountable way. This site, which we have been working on for a long time now, represents the first draft of the future of search.”
Unlike Wikipedia, Wikia Search is a for-profit initiative and hence will eventually carry ads alongside the search results, much like Google. In fact, I won’t be surprised if its Google Adwords that is used.
The new search engine launched yesterday to some critical reviews. The most influential reviewers have trashed the product and I can see why. It’s pretty bare-bones and half-baked. Combine that with the high expectations from people’s comparision with Wikipedia and the let-down feeling is understandable. For example, I ego-searched my name ‘Kiruba’, and received only 43 results as compared with over 82,500 in Google.
Jimmy Wales defends saying that Wikipedia on day 1 was pretty bad as well but eventually grew to be the world’s biggest encyclopedia. The idea is to launch early and launch often. It’ll be interesting to see how this project shapes up.