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Wikia Search Goes Live – It’s Not Ready Yet
I wanted to love the Wikia Search from the minute I joined the mailing list months ago. I was very excited to see the photos of the servers being loaded into the racks and was looking forward to using the alpha. I was one of the first to get access and so far, sadly, I have to say that it doesn’t "wow" me. When I spoke with the PR person, she said that they let Wikipedia out early and look how well it worked. I noted that Wikipedia basically had no competitors and that helped it get a 1st mover advantage. I am sure that any review you read of Wikia Search today, you will see comparisons to Google, Yahoo, Mahalo and Hakia.
I spoke with Jimmy Wales for a few minutes on Friday. He said they are looking for (eventually) a 5% market share and will be showing ads later on. He said Wikia Search is a "general Web search" and competes with Google, Yahoo, and Ask. The biggest positive I see so far is that the Wikia Search team is very open to feedback and appears to be building this search engine with the community in mind.
Update: Check out a couple of other reviews as well from Mike Arrington and Paris Lemon. Of course read mine below first :)
The search engine works just like any other search engine. They use "Nutch" for the algorithm and display the numerical result for each result next to the text. I sure hope that this scoring is only shown for the Alpha/Beta as no mainstream user cares about what the score for a result is, they just want the best result. The indexed sites list is small and is growing so finding accurate results is a bit tricky. A search for Web 2.0 didn’t return anything that seemed correct, though searching for TechCrunch did provide a more accurate set of results. Rex suggested that I do a vanity search — the results were the NYU Stern School of Business along with about 8 other .de German "Stern" web sites. Do a search for sex and you can see why they need to index more results asap.
There is one function on the search that is new and pretty groovy. Instead of reloading the page to see the next batch of results, the page just expands on the click to show the next batch. This is very cool and has high usability but it might be limiting for cpm-based advertising.
One of the major pieces of the Wikia Search are the social aspects. When you setup your profile, the keywords you attach allow you to show up in searches for those keywords. I like this because it can help you to find others that are interested in the same topics you are and build new relationships.
You can also create a profile page which is similar to a profile page on any social network. Even though I am not a fan of all of these profile pages, I have to give the nod here to Mahalo’s social page only because Mahalo lets you associate other network accounts. I can show my delicious, digg, facebook, etc. You can also friend people just like with any other social network.
"Mini Articles" are basically stubs with links to full wiki pages. When you search for any term, above the results is a Mini Article which anyone can edit. The articles link goes to a full wiki page about the subject which again anyone can edit. I believe these Mini Articles will have tons of abuse. Jimmy said that there will be community admins who will be selected by Jimmy to keep the spam and blackhat activities out. He said payment will be unlikely which leads me to believe that it will be easy to game the system, even though Jimmy said on our call that "gaming is impossible".
Overall I would say that Wikia Search has a long way to go in terms of interface, usability and features to get me to want to change (or add) it to the search engines. I understand that it’s in Alpha and things will improve and change as the plan moves forward, however I would have liked it to be a bit more polished before hitting the public eye.