If all goes according to plan, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and partner Amazon will launch a socially-charged search engine to compete with Google, Yahoo, Ask and others early next year. According to the story in The Times of London, the project is called Wikiasari--wiki (Hawaiian for "quick" + asari (Japanese for "rummaging search)--and will be launched out of Wikia, Inc, the for-profit, venture-funded branch of Wales' effort to human-empower Web pages.
More competition in the search space is welcome. At this point, Google has nearly 50 percent of search traffic (Nielsen/NetRatings) and Yahoo about 25 percent.
Search results are still primitive, lacking sufficient context and they don't solve the needle in a haystack problem. Wikiasari will add Wikipedia-like human editorial input, rather than just link popularity and other algorithmic tricks to render search results.
In many ways, Google's PageRank, which evaluates link structure, is looking at human input (clicks, along with spam and other gaming that muddies results). Ask.com's Teoma ExpertRank algorithms break the Web down by topic and then analyze the sites that cover a topic and how topics relate to one another.
Wikiasari would apply the "wisdom of the crowd" to judging the value of a Web page. What would be really interesting is if Wikiasari came up with a way for "trusted" users to input some of their clickstream, attention data, as part of the search engine's collective wisdom. The surface area of the Web is huge and it would take years for a comprehensive editorially-driven search engine to evolve without an infusion of attention data, and it's unclear as to whether Wikiasari would have similar problematic issues of command and control that have surfaced in the Wikipedia community. Teaming with Amazon could provide a baseline of functionality out of the gate. It could also revive Amazon's failed attempts to compete on the search stage, such as A9.
Of course, the secret to Google success versus competitors isn't just market share of searches, but monetizing search traffic with its ad revenue engine. Maybe Wikia's next product will be a n open source ad engine.
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Update: Jimmy Wales responds to inaccuracies in reports about Wikiasari
Amazon has nothing to do with this project. They are a valued investor in Wikia, but people are really speculating beyond the facts. This has nothing to do with A9, Amazon, etc.Donna Bogatin has more on Wales' response