The latest and greatest news to greet me at work this morning is that Wikia Search has just released the alpha version of its open source search engine: Wikia Search Alpha.
What is Wikia Search?
A separate, for-profit effort spearheaded by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Wikia Search is a new type of search engine that aims to improve the relevance of results by allowing them to be actively influenced by users.
How Does it Work?
At first glance, Wikia Search looks eerily similar to other search engines, featuring a spartan search box centered in the page:
But when you get to the search engine results page, there’s a difference:
Okay – the first thing that comes to mind when viewing these results for a search on “jade plants” is that they are somewhat lacking in relevance as well as number (531 pages returned).
We expect Wikia Search to be like fine wine in that it will get better and better as time goes by and more and more people contribute.
So I Can Influence Wikia Search Results?
Yes. You and other community members can influence results in three main ways:
- Providing user feedback in the Post Bug Reports
- Contributing to “mini articles” that appear at the top of search results
- Rating actual search results (on a scale from 1 to 5), which will move up and/or down based on their collective score
Does This Mean Wikia Search Could Deliver Better Results Than Google?
That’s the goal. But Wikia Search has a long road ahead if it aims to match the enormous size of Google’s existing index. Notes Danny Sullivan:
I also tend to think Wales is completely underestimating how crawling a big chunk of the web, keeping those pages fresh, ranking them quickly to provide answers and doing so for millions each day isn’t an off-the-shelf commodity.
And what about keeping up with users who try to game the system? As with any social site, Wikia Search’s success will ultimately depend on the collective integrity and buy-in of the users who adopt it.
While perhaps unlikely that Wikia Search will ever achieve the unprecedented worldwide user adoption that Google currently claims, it’s refreshing to see the current status quo being challenged. No one can argue that there is still a great deal of room for improvement in SERPs, and Wikia Search is a interesting step forward.