Wikia Search Gets First Major Upgrade

Wikia Search, the
open source search engine Wikia Inc. rolled out in January, is set for a significant upgrade today, adding a lengthy
feature set aimed at bringing the project closer to its goal of creating a
human-powered alternative to the algorithm-driven search engines currently
dominating the market.

Wikia Inc. is the for-profit venture chaired by Wikipedia founder Jimmy
Wales, who launched the search engine project declaring that the current
form of search, where users have no visibility into how pages are ranked,
was broken. Wikipedia is run under the auspices of the non-profit Wikimedia
Foundation.

From the beginning, Wales has been clear that he did not expect Wikia
Search to knock Google from its perch atop the search market right away. He
acknowledged that it would take time to build a good search engine, candidly
admitting that the initial quality of the results was quite poor.

“I think they’re kind of okay now, and that’s saying something because
I’m pretty strict on what constitutes good search results,” Wales said of
the new features in an interview with InternetNews.com. “We’re
definitely not to industry-standard quality, but we’re usable now.”

Now, registered users will be able to directly edit the search results,
including their titles and summaries, with their edits immediately viewable
to the community. Then, too, users will be able to delete or hide any
results that they don’t find relevant.

Just as with Wikipedia entries, the edits a user makes to search results
will be subject to review by an editorial board.

Through a star-based rating system, users will be able to vote up or down
certain search results based on their relevance to the query, which will
gradually reshape the order of the page rankings.

Wales said that Wikia Search has so far indexed about 30 million pages.
Like Mahalo, another community-inspired
search engine, Wikia Search is only indexing whitelisted pages, filtering
out junk sites to ensure that the search engine only delivers high-quality
results.

Wikia Search counts about 20,000 members who have signed up and created
profiles. To date, their work has produced about 25,000 mini articles that
accompany the results.

The new features also include an AJAX-powered interface through which
people will be able to pull in data from other sites, such as movie
information from imdb.com to augment a search for theater showtimes.

Looking ahead, Wales said that Wikia Search is planning an API to enable developers
to create more sophisticated applications, but that the tie-in to data from
external sites rolling out today is simple enough that anyone can work with
it.

The revamped Wikia Search page will also offer one-click links to search
results on Google, Yahoo and the other major search engines, enabling a
comparison between the open source search engine and its larger and more
opaque competitors.

By opening its own search platform to developers, Yahoo has actually been
moving in a similar direction as Wales’ venture. Yahoo is billing its SearchMonkey initiative
as the next generation of search by allowing developers the ability to edit
and annotate results.

But unlike Wikia Search, where users’ voting will
affect results rankings, the underlying algorithm that produces page
rankings in Yahoo’s search engine is not changing through its developer
initiative.

Other additions to Wikia Search include a retooled profile page, where
people can keep track of changes via a news feed, and an improved messaging
function.

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