Could Wikia Search be a serious rival to Google?

By Mark O’Neill

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is hoping that the Wikipedia magic will rub off on his latest project – to build a user community “wiki” search engine – unimaginatively called “Wikia Search“.

The search engine has been in existence for quite a while. I have had an beta invite to look at it and poke around at it with others, but yesterday marked the first time that anyone could participate without an invite. In fact, before today, I hadn’t taken a look at the search engine in quite a while and I was really pleasantly surprised at how far the project had come. But after putting in a few search terms, it’s clear the search engine still needs a lot of work done to it.

For example, I entered “geeksaresexy.net”. The top result SHOULD be the GAS domain name but instead I got back the Wikipedia page for Veronica Belmont and then some hardcore porn!

Further down the page are a page or two for GAS as well as the old GAS blog on Blogspot. But to get back porn as some of your first results shows the pitfalls of human-submitted entries! Fortunately, can easily delete something if you think it is irrelevant to the search. But this is rather risky because you may think a URL is irrelevant but someone may not – cue lots of online feuding.

So I did my bit for GAS and Kiltak by entering into Wikia Search the GAS domain name, and the good thing is that changes are accepted INSTANTLY. Just like Wikipedia, it will stay that way, unless someone else comes along and reverses what I have done.

There’s also a RSS feed you can subscribe to, so you can be notified immediately if someone messes with your stuff!

One big downside is that when you are searching for something, the search engine is VERY slow. I am hoping that the site speeds up really soon as I can easily see people getting hacked off with the slow loading times, especially if they are on slow internet connections.

All in all, looking at the project now, I am pretty optimistic about the whole thing. Back when it started, everyone was predicting it would crash and burn, that it would be overrun with spammers, that it wouldn’t stand a chance against Google. But as many commentators have pointed out, Wikipedia used to be only one page and look where they are now. Everyone has to start somewhere and this may be where Wikia Search starts.

Whenever you have a spare minute, it would be a good idea for you to do searches and to submit URL’s wherever you see areas that need attention. You might ask, “what’s the point? Google reigns supreme online”. But maybe it’s time that Google started facing some serious competition and who better than a wiki user community?

A Google computer search algorithim is only good up to a point – it can’t always detect scam websites, spam websites, and also ones with inaccurate facts – whereas human users can (a bit like Stumbleupon users voting sites up and down). Perhaps a wiki human search engine could prove to be a serious competitor to Google in the long term? It may take years for Wikia Search to get there, but it’s possible.

You never know. Stranger things have happened.

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