Wikiasari : The Answer for Search?

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WikiaEven as search becomes all-but-synonymous with the Internet for many users, there’s a paradoxical and growing sense that it’s failing. We have incredibly high expectations for search but that’s partly because it has been very successful to date. Every quarter or so it seems a new, would-be David comes out to challenge Googliath.

The newest one is Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, who is planning to launch a Wiki-based search engine called “Wikiasari.” Here’s his public statement on the motivation for and foundations of the project:

“Search is part of the fundamental infrastructure of the Internet. And, it is currently broken.

Why is it broken? It is broken for the same reason that proprietary software is always broken: lack of freedom, lack of community, lack of accountability, lack of transparency. Here, we will change all that.

There have been some amazing projects in recent years which have matured now to the point that a new alternative is possible. Wikia is funding and supporting the development of something radically new.

Nutch and Lucene and some other projects now provide the background infrastructure that we need to generate a new kind of search engine, which relies on human intelligence to do what algorithms cannot. Just as Wikipedia revolutionized how we think about knowledge and the encyclopedia, we have a chance now to revolutionize how we think about search.

Help me out, spread the word. I am looking for people to continue the development of a wiki-inspired search engine. Specifically community members who would like to help build people-powered search results and developers to help us build an open-source alternative for web search.

Wikipedia is an amazing success story that nobody could or would have predicted. So maybe Wikiasari holds the same promise but my sense is that it will have to look and act quite different from Google or Yahoo! to gain usage, but at the same time be as simple to use.

Some would argue that Wikipedia has already “jumped the shark” in terms of expanding to cover trivia and celebritites.

Greg Sterling is the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm focused on online consumer and advertiser behavior and the relationship between the Internet and traditional media, with an emphasis on the local marketplace.

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  • I think Wikiasari is going to fail in a HUGE way. Search is not broken. Human editors are not going to be better than algorithms (and even if they are Google can easily get more of them than can Jimmy Wales). I write more about this at

  • Sal S.

    “Search is not broken”
    It’s not broken however, in the evolution cycle, it hardly made it’s first baby steps.
    I’m amazed search professionals look at search today and thing this is as far as it goes. We have so much to do, so much to move forward.

  • Everyone says that, Sal, but could you give some examples? And I don’t me stupid examples like, “we need search engines to be able to guess when we mean bass the fish vs. bass the beer vs. bass the electric instrument vs. bass the acoustic instrument vs. bass the voice.” Those examples are dumb because a consumer wanting information on bass the fish doesn’t just enter “bass,” or if he does he immediately re-searches for “bass fishing.”

  • Keith,

    We need search engines that can produce results for:
    “Were there any more wars with the French after 1850?”
    Probably any adult in the US can answer that question in a heart beat, but a search engine fails miserably. We need search engines that can understand humans. So far the best way we can search for that query is something like:
    “US history war France”

    The results of that query on any search engine will hardly yield a direct response to the question in the user’s mind. We can easily expect half the high-school kids looking for that information to fail in their search.

    The SEs are not to blame though. It is not their fault, they are just not advanced enough but we are moving forward. That’s what we’ll be seeing in the future, smarter SEs that can understand humans better and thus produce better results.

    And about the bass thing,
    We are already there. Search engines can tell if you mean bass the fish or bass the musical instrument based on the profile they have on you. I’m not sure to what extent they will be comfortable implementing it in their search results, but they are already targeting results to your locale info.

  • Robert J. Handley,
    Your argument holds less water than a beer cap. The assumption that people become loyal to services on the sole basis of apparent popularity is not very convincing.
    Curiosity generates initial hits, but if the goods are not worth it visitors don’t come back.

  • Robert Handley

    True…but I think that “popularity” plays a big part and is interrelated into user behavior…I also think that because a select few search engines dominate the SE market, many will be unaware that the “goods” are of high quality (or poor quality). You have to consider that although potential buyers/customers might have a good understanding of what they’re looking for…all the other people using the same search engines often don’t…they’re searches are still counted into the mix…these millions of users DO come back, regardless of whether the info is of the “best” quality. There are a lot of people who believe everything/too much of what they read on the internet. In fact, I would speculate that the majority of users have too much faith in the info that comes up in searches….

    I could be way off…