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March 06, 2009

Why Wikia Search must Prevail

By Carl Grimm, New Idea Engineering

Some of the world’s greatest views are so stunning, so sublime that humanity ensures that they remain open to the public. There would be riots in the streets of Paris and worldwide scorn if the Eiffel Tower was sold to a private individual and closed. If we just posted picture of the summits of K2 or Mount Everest at their bases people would hardly accept the substitution. The Mount Everest of the internet's summit however is currently closed to the public. Even worse than substituting a picture all we get is little tiny search box reminiscent of the door slot on a prohibition era speakeasy. That summit is spelled Google.

The view for Google just keeps on getting better. In November of last year they obtained a patent on “a system [that] determines an ordered sequence of documents and determines an amount of novel content contained in each document of the ordered sequence of documents.” Not only do they have the view they can now pick out the most interesting landmark given the view.

The current landscape looks something like this. We can walk up to the base of the mountain and ask the oracle of search sitting atop, “Do you see any birds?” to which we get a reply. “I see about 3,710,000 birds. It took me .17 seconds to look at all the birds. Would you like me to tell you about the first 10 birds I find relevant?” That’s about all the oracle of search will tell you. Do not expect an invitation to the top to see the view and most certainly do not expect to breathe from the bag of visions used to separate the best birds from the rest.

It is the consolidation of this view in the hand of a few companies without access to the raw search indexes, ranking algorithms and other constituent parts that caused Jimmy Wales, one of the founders of Wikipedia, to launch Wikia Search.

How does this tie into Enterprise search you may ask? Consider the advances in new drug development and therapies that have come out of having sequenced the entire human genome. With such a broad view of content Google can tease out some of the finer nuances of human language and develop more powerful algorithms. The future of meaningful search in this information age could come from this broad view. Wikia Search, unlike Google and others, allows individuals to download the index used to generate search results as well as the code used for ranking algorithms rather than keep it private.

Jimmy Wales wanted to see the view. In fact he wanted us all to be able to see the view. In creating Wikia Search he has unleashed the beginnings of a totally open source internet search engine where he envisions that the public will regain control over all the content it has produced.  “Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge,” is perhaps Wales’ most known saying. He may have realized, like we all should, that perhaps having the ability for only a few for profit companies to be able to see and analyze the sum of all human knowledge is a potentially dangerous thing.

Google has done a lot for us, perhaps even revolutionized Internet search. Google’s 70% share of the search market clearly shows how much we are enjoying their innovations. Notwithstanding our demonstrated love perhaps we should consider the words of George Orwell when he said, “One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”

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Comments

I totally agree some kind, Wikipedia is that great, in stead of Wiki search. I think that is the opposite of the success of Wikipedia.

Daniel, I do use it when I can for the sake of supporting it. You are correct that it is not the best out there at this time but for most things I find it very tolerable. I’ll take it over Cuil any day.

Wikipedia was not a Britannica killer at or around its launch either. The Wiki concept of the community evolving it to a point of competition is the idea behind it.

It will only become an acceptable substitute if we want it to be. If one was going to classify it as a failure, it would be first and foremost a failure of the community to embrace the project.

Jimmy Wales is not "the founder" of Wikipedia, unless you're (like Wales) trying to stuff Dr. Larry Sanger down the old memory hole.

Have you even looked into the truth about Wikia Search's so-called "open" characteristics? It sounds like you haven't, having bought the myth hook, line, and sinker.

Read this, please:

http://sethf.com/infothought/blog/archives/001416.html

If you think Wikia Search is so wonderful, you ought to at least give credit where due, to Yahoo!

I'm all for entrepreneurs developing alternatives to Google--although I wish they'd make more credible efforts rather than simply burning through investor money. Their failed efforts only reinforce Google's near-monopoly.

But Wikia Search? Really? Have you ever tried using it? I didn't realize that anyone was still taking it seriously. Don't get me wrong, I give Jimmy Wales major props for Wikipedia. But Wikia Search strikes me as a failed experiment no one ever bothered to shut down.

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