Posted June 1, 2007 12:50 pm by with 13 comments

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It seems the SEO community isn’t too impressed with Jason Calacanis’ new search engine Mahalo. It’s not at all hugely surprising given his somewhat antagonistic relationship with the industry. However unlike some people I don’t think the project is destined to fail.

I agree with a lot of the faults that have been pointed out with the idea; but I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a minute and point out five ways in which Mahalo will succeed.

People Search – it seems the manual editors have spent plenty of time creating listings for the rich and famous. A few quick searches on actors, musicians and even bloggers and you’ll see results which generally are as good if not better than Google’s first page of results. They’ve done a good job of getting lots of valuable information and links all in one single page. You only need to look at the top searches for 2006 to see how being the search engine for celebrities could be a clever move by JC & Co.

Spam Free – I’ll admit if it gets too popular, Mahalo might have a dmoz 2.0 on their hands, but so far the engine is completely spam free. As hard as Matt Cutt’s might try, they are always going to be a few black hats out there that are ahead of the algo. If the human editors are doing their job properley, Mahalo won’t have that problem.

No Shopping Engines – one of my biggest gripes with Google is the proliferation of shopping engines like Shopzilla & Kelkoo on any product search. Some people think they are useful results for users, but personally I couldn’t disagree more. I’d hoped that they would be disappearing with Google’s crack down on Search Results in Google but they don’t seem to be going anywhere. Another positive for the Hawaiian named site.

Well Integrated Universal Search – while Google’s Universal Search and Technorati’s redesign are commendable, they are pretty busy design wise. Keeping the clear subtitles Mahalo, does a good job of keeping the interface simple. You still get the blogs, video and news but it’s a lot easier to see what’s what.

Incorporates RSS Well – they’ve even done a reasonable good job on integrating RSS into their results. For example Calacanis’ previous project Engadget shows its three most recent articles; right there on the search page.

I agree they will have problems scaling, amongst other things, but I think a few people have been a bit too quick to judge the engine based on its owner’s ego rather than the engine’s performance. Give it some time, it might just take off.

  • I spent some time searching Mahalo yesterday including doing a lot of people searches. The biggest thing I noticed was that the results just kept pointing me to the same dozen or so sites.

    In all but one search the Wikipedia entry on the same subject is listed in the top 7 results. Why go to Mahalo? It would be quicker to go to Wikipedia directly and search there.

    I didn’t see any finely hand-crafted results as the site claims. What I saw was links to a small subset of the most popular sites online. Do we need a pseudo search engine to tell us how to get to the Wikipedia or to IMBD or to Yahoo?

  • I mean look at you have all the usual suspects, wiki, bbc etc.

    but flickr results,

    blog results,

    links to the israel palestine conflict,

    links to news stories about him in main stream press

    brief biog etc

    not bad for one just one page, a great oversight in one place, more links than wiki, more variety than google.

    Not perfect but can def see uses…

  • If I were to release something I would make sure you can find me in Google for my name, no matter what it is…

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  • They’ve got a lot of work ahead of them, there seems to be quiet a bit of smaller search engines around, they are becoming more and more common but anyone thinking of taking on the big 3 are going to have one heck of a time, it is very interesting none the less.

    Good work on the article and laying out the points, the thing they really need to work on is pushing out more of their own results.

  • Mahalo for the great feedback!

    The results we’ve done so far are about 60-70% complete. We plan on letting the public help us finish them. For example, if you look at the Apple, iPhone, or Twitter search result pages you’ll see that people are putting in some great links–links that we will move from the “recommended” box and into the main search result.

    In terms of scale I wouldn’t worry about that too much. Since we show Google when we don’t have a result you lose noting when you search Mahalo, and if we have a hit you get a HUGE pay off.

    Right now we only have 4,000 pages, but at some point you’ll be able to add a zero or two to that number and experience something much, much different. When that happens a lot of the SEO hate will die down.

    In fact, we are the best thing to ever happen to SEO firms because we will listen to them. Google, Ask, Yahoo, and MSN will not talk to an SEO or their client about the search results for a term, but our Guides will. In fact, we’re hoping SEOs come to us with their best clients and links because we can quickly tell if they should be included. If they are not valuable enough our Guides will tell the SEO/client why and give them tips on how to make their site competitive enough with the other links on the page.

    In a way I think SEOs might learn to love Mahalo because they can’t stop wasting their time trying to game Google and spend their time making better sites that help people–and isn’t that the most important thing at the end of the day?

    Mahalo for the feedback and please keep it coming!


  • Thanks for the response Jason, it’s great that you are responding to the blogosphere, It’s nice to feel involved in the process and hopefully the feedback will help mahalo improve.

    If it will indeed work the way you imply, with the suggestion of links those SEOs working on good sites might do quite well. However I wouldn’t want to be the guide mortgages, loans or poker!

  • Jason, I don’t think making your site better is going to cause the SEO hate to die down. I’m pretty sure it’s you they hate after your remarks painting the entire industry with one brush.

  • I’m still putting all my chips on Chacha. They have people that do the searching for you! Last time I used it, I asked the guy if he was using Google to find what I needed. 😛 Great service… engine could be a little better, though.

    Dario ::

  • Sites like the big g have two things going for them:

    1. near infinite resources

    2 (The biggest one) inertia.

    If Google decided that it needed to get human editors, it will, and plenty of them to start at the most searched for keywords, and work their way down, cleaning it up as they go along.

    The inertia means that they will be fine until they plug this gap, because so many people don’t even try other search engines.

    This new search engine, they have gone for the popular vote, and it takes time to huma edit many pages, that is why there is so little in the way of pages.

    How about this for an idea: The wiki-engine where users modify the search engine rankings based on their experiences.

  • I certainly agree with you Alan that Mahalo really have there work cut out getting people to try the engine. Habbit is hard to break.

    I wouldn’t be so sure that if Google introduced a similar human edited engine it would take off.

    Firstly you only need to look to Google video to see that inertia doesn’t always work.

    Plus the sheer hours and people working on the algo, i don’t think they’d be keen with some researcher tweaking the results…

    I’m not convinced Mahalo will work, but I still think it’s an interesting project.

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