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TechCrunch reports that Wikia Search Is A Complete Letdown.

Many of us have waited a year as the Jimmy Wales hype machine promised a human powered search engine that could take on Google. Tonight that search engine launched at alpha.search.wikia.com, and it may be one of the biggest disappointments I’ve had the displeasure of reviewing.

First of all, it’s barely a search engine at all. It’s based on the open source Nutch software and contains an index of web pages created by Grub (a company Wikia acquired last year). The search results are poor and thin, as would be expected if not for the huge expectations that have been set. Absolutely no one is going to use this to search the web, until (and if) it is greatly improved.

But beyond the poor search results, there is really no “human” element to the engine at all. That functionality will come later, says Wikia CEO Gil Penchina. For now, users can add keywords to their profile - things that they are interested in, etc. When a search is conducted by others on those terms, the user’s picture is shown in the right hand column. Eventually, users will be able to edit and improve results for searches they are interested in. But currently, all users can do is add keywords to their profile that they might someday be interested in, and/or contribute to a “mini-article” that appears at the top of search results for queries (example).

And about those profiles. As anticipated, Wikia Search is yet another social network. User profiles include basic elements like a photo, adding friends, and information about interests and skills. And in a direct rip off of Facebook, Wikia Search profiles contain an activity stream of stuff you and your friends have been up to over the recent past.

Wikia search would be a disappointment even without the massive hype we’ve had to endure. And taking that hype into account, this product is an inexcusable waste of time.

To be fair, CEO Gil Penchina warned me it wouldn’t be a great product at launch. It’s simply a proof of concept of what can be created using open source software and little money, he says. Fair enough. But it’s time for Wales to be quiet, let this thing evolve or not, and eventually let the software do the talking. Eventually Wikia will make the index available to third parties. But the index needs to be reasonably decent before anyone will want it. Wikia has a long way to go to get there.

The comments at the end of the post are worth reading.

Here is Wikia.

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Comments (2)

Seth Finkelstein on January 8, 2008 5:37 PM:

Siva, the title is confused.

Wikimedia is a non-profit registered charity.

Wikia is Jimmy Wales's for-profit $14 million venture-capital backed corporation.

Wikia usually runs a bunch of digital-sharecropping plantations, excuse me, I mean wiki sites.

It also has this give-us-free-work search project, which just debuted to underwhelming reviews.

Siva Vaidhyanathan on January 9, 2008 10:46 AM:

Oops! Will correct. Thanks.

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A book in progress by

Siva Vaidhyanathan

Siva Vaidhyanathan

This blog, the result of a collaboration between myself and the Institute for the Future of the Book, is dedicated to exploring the process of writing a critical interpretation of the actions and intentions behind the cultural behemoth that is Google, Inc. The book will answer three key questions: What does the world look like through the lens of Google?; How is Google's ubiquity affecting the production and dissemination of knowledge?; and how has the corporation altered the rules and practices that govern other companies, institutions, and states? [more]

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Topics

Like the Mind of God (22 posts)

All the World's Information (26 posts)

What If Big Ads Don't Work (10 posts)

Don't Be Evil (9 posts)

Is Google a Library? (43 posts)

Challenging Big Media (18 posts)

The Dossier (19 posts)

Global Google (3 posts)

Google Earth (3 posts)

A Public Utility? (19 posts)

About this Book (16 posts)

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Rewiring the Nation: The Place of Technology in American Studies (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007)


The Anarchist in the Library (Basic Books, 2004)


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Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity (New York University Press, 2001)

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