Wikia Search is to take on the big three search engines (Google, Yahoo and MSN) in the next couple of weeks.
With the dominance of the top three, it is going to take nothing short of a miracle to upset the current status quo. Enter Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia.
Wales launched the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia in 2001. Wikipedia now has more than nine million articles in more than 250 languages. It took an army of writers to achieve this magnificent feat — where did they come from and how much are they paid? Wikimedia Foundation, the entity that manages Wikipedia, is staffed by only 20 full-time staff members. The vast majority of articles are being submitted by its 75 000 voluntary contributors.
Wales perfected the art of online collaboration and produced nothing short of a miracle — exactly what is needed with Wikia Search.
With the current three big search engines, not many people understand how the rankings are achieved. This is purposefully done to prevent manipulation. There are certain techniques one can use to increase your ranking (search-engine optimisation) but nobody really knows, as the source code underlying the search tool is kept secret.
What will set Wikia Search apart is online collaboration: people will be able to provide feedback on results, influencing future rakings. Because Wikia Search will also publish the source code, results will be provided in an open, transparent and public way.
What will be interesting to watch is how Wikia Search will handle commercially related keywords such as “insurance”, “car hire”, “buy laptop”, “camera” and so forth. Who would control the feedback on these terms and how do you keep this unbiased? Would the company that provides the best service or price be listed first?
When Wikia Search goes live (it is currently in alpha testing), it would make for a fresh addition to the search engines currently available.
Though Wikia Search might not make huge inroads into Google’s market share, it may push the other search engines — with massive influence over the flow of information on the internet — towards a more open, participatory business model.