Jimmy Wales is a super-duper rocket scientist

Jimmy Wales is getting in the search business. All he wants is 5% of the market. That's nothing for somebody with Jimmy's audacious business acumen.
Written by Andrew Keen on

If Jimmy Wales didn't exist, silly satiricists like myself would have to invent him.

Yesterday, I promised myself that I wouldn't write any more about Jimmy Wales this week. I don't want you thinking that I'm obsessed with him. After all, there is other news out there. AT&T are jumping out of Yahoo's broadband bed. Verizon won its patent suit against Vonage. Google have gotten into the mass transit business.

But Jimmy, who the normally strait-laced Reuters news agency refers to as (wink-wink) "a former futures trader", is back in the news. Yesterday, in Tokyo, he revealed that his "for-profit" Amazon backed Wikia (as if Wikipedia isn't for profit...) was getting in the search business. Jimmy was announcing a commercial search engine that will, he promised, rival Yahoo and Google. All he wants was 5% of their market (anyone who has ever done a tech start-up has played that stupid game with VCs -- 5% of music business, 5% of Hollywood, 5% of the OS market...). But stop and think about it for a moment. 5% of the search market is real money -- even for virtual plutocrat like Jimmy. Google alone did over $6 billion in revenue in 2006. And 5% of that is $300 million. No wonder he wants his 5%. 

And how did Jimmy justify this audacious search engine land grab? He told his Toyko audience:

    "The idea that Google has some edge because they've got super-duper rocket scientists may be a little antiquated now."

Huh? Wikia has a staff of 30 who, as Reuters explain, "publish sites on a wide range of topics from psychology to the Muppets." Whereas Google really does employ rocket scientists -- thousands and thousands of them, in fact. Like them or not, Google has "edge" because they've amassed the best brains on the planet to build the best search engine on the planet. That's not rocket science. Even a silly satirist like me knows that.

But why did Jimmy choose to announce the Wikia search engine in Tokyo? One reason might be because most Japanese people don't speak English, so he could say what he liked without the audience laughing in his face. Another reason might be that the Japanese are so polite that even those who understood what he was saying were too well mannered to snigger.

So, anyway, there was Jimmy in Toyko, opening his big mouth again and announcing to the world that Wikia was getting into the search engine business -- open source, of course, with collaborative communities and the rest of his citizen-media shtick. But why, I wonder, did Jimmy stop with search? Why not announce a Wikia version of a nuclear weapon (5% of the global market for WMD's is nothing to sneeze at)? Or, most "innovatively" of all, a Wiki version of Jimmy Wales himself -- collaboratively created by open source rocket scientists.

5% of Jimmy Wales. Now how massive is that market?

Perhaps the former futures trader will make announcements about these new Wikia products next week. He'll probably call press conferences somewhere really obscure -- like the United Arab Emirates or the Holloway neighborhood of North London. But I won't write about it. I don't believe in Jimmy Wales anymore. He's just a figment of my silly imagination.


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