Posted January 7, 2008 9:59 am by with 23 comments

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page

When you launch a new search engine, admitting defeat at the outset isn’t exactly a promising start. Jimmy Wales founder of Wikia Searchwhich launches today–did just that.

“We want to make it really clear that when people arrive and do searches, they should not expect to find a Google killer,” Mr. Wales told the New York Times.

Hmm, not exactly the statement of faith I’d want to make when launching a new product. Sure, Wikia Search may technically be in “alpha”–what happens when that gets exhausted by start-ups, will we have to invent a new Greek letter?–but do you really want the media (and users) to form a negative sentiment before even giving Wikia a chance to impress?

Judging by early reviews, Wikia is living up to Wales’ expectactions. TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington–the bestower of all tech reputations–isn’t exactly impressed with the launch.

“…it may be one of the biggest disappointments I’ve had the displeasure of reviewing.”

Makes you want to rush over there and test it out, doesn’t it?

Still, the teething problems Wikia faces now will be nothing compared to the onslaught it will face, should it reach any level of success–the kind measured by market share, not self-righteous satisfaction that your search engine is built by the people, for the people.

SEOs Will Game Wikia Search 

If Jimmy Wales thought the Wikipedia-gaming by search engine optimizers was a pain in the ass, their efforts will feeling like a welcomed pat on the derrière compared to the kick up the butt they’ll provide, once they start figuring out the inner-workings of Wikia’s algorithm.

Like other search engines and sites that rely on the so-called “wisdom of crowds,” the Wikia search engine is likely to be susceptible to people who try to game the system, by, for example, seeking to advance the ranking of their own site. Mr. Wales said Wikia would attempt to “block them, ban them, delete their stuff,” just as other wiki projects do.

“Attempt” is the key word here. Even the mighty Google has a hard time keeping the blackest of hats under control–and their algo doesn’t encourage the input of others like Wikia’s does. Likewise, when SEOs tried to game Wikipedia, it was in an effort to obtain some valuable links that would help them with Google–Wikipedia played a secondary role to their main goal. If Wikia achieves any measurable market share, it’s going to face a direct onslaught–something that might be hard to battle, when you have such an open-door policy.

And, in case you think I’m exaggerating the danger here, it’s already started–and you’ll never guess who’s first to try and pick apart the Wikia algorithm. Google’s own Matt Cutts!

It’s very early days for Wikia. I’m not about to tell you that it will face certain doom–despite my headline–but I’m not convinced that Wikia has a model that can be sustained, once it gets beyond the market share of, say, Still, Jimmy Wales is smart guy, and my track record of predicting failure isn’t always correct–Mahalo appears to be doing well, despite my concerns–but Wikia will at some point play a very challenging game of SEO chess. The “black” players are very adept at the game, let’s hope Wikipedia taught Wales how to defend from a check-mate.

  • I’m not trying to game it – but I would like to see how it works – i have been using grub since august. However no invite for me – and no responses to any comments about bugs in the grub crawler. So who knows.

  • It would appear from my poking around Wikia Search that it is living up to Jimmy Wales’ very low expectations..

    So much for that.

    Karl A. Shalek

  • Pingback: Phil Bradley's weblog: Wikia - Search - more responses.()

  • It will be interesting to watch the effect of open algorithm on the industry, they will be experimenting for all of us.

  • Well, i thought it is a search engine related to wikipedia, but it is not. If any search engines want to beat Google, it got to give better search results, that’s the bottom line.

  • Mike Tekula

    I don’t think this “open algorithm” is going to have much of an effect on the industry at all. The idea that allowing people to push rankings around in a direct way is going to create a usable search tool is ridiculous to me. The reason Google is Google is because their results are relevant and increasingly difficult, or nearly impossible, to game. This is the opposite.

    My prediction: this is nothing more than laugh-worthy.

  • I toyed around with it for a little bit and I must say the results are worse than MSN-LIVE-Microsoft-XBOX-Zune.coms’ search engine if you can believe that.

    I am going to go ahead and call this a “fail”.

  • I honestly can’t understand their “we are not the best, but feel free to use us”-attitude. Why would people use them if they don’t even have enough confidence in their own project?

    Alan Johnson

  • I was abut to say your comment about “the market share of Ask” was ridiculous, as Ask has no market share. But then I second guessed myself and checked my traffic logs, and sure enough, I got a visitor from Ask a few days ago. Dang, Pilgrim, you’re way ahead of me. Keep up the good work!

  • @John – before you know it, there’ll be two referrals from Ask! 😉

  • Pingback: DavePress » links for 2008-01-08()

  • Interesting Review. The first thing I thought when I saw the ranking score was “people are going to game this” At least I wasnt the only one 🙂

  • People will always try to make any system work for them, sometimes using more than “questionable” approaches, but somehow, I kind of get a “people will try to take advantage of our system, we’ll try to stop them but who knows…”-vibe from these guys.

    Alan Johnson

  • I hope someone, someday builds a better search platform. I don’t think SEO Black Hatters will kill Wikia Search “it’s doing fine on it’s own!”

    I tried looking up scottsdale homes the results urg …

    I do admire the programming knowledge and time it takes to develop such a project. But How does it make you money?!?

  • Part of me wants them to achieve some level of success, but I just cannot see that happening.

    Karl A. Krogmann

  • dave mancuso

    mike arrington is the bestower of all tech reputations? are you for frigging real? the guy’s a illiterate blowhard and his blog site it shite. please. if i want real insight, i’ll stick with mossberg, pogue or cnet.

  • Pretty rough, but you’ve got to get the word out sometime. Give them a chance to develop. I’m sure a lot of negatives spawn from other web players who don’t want to lose control of any share and their minions.

  • I tried to sign up for an account, but keep getting errors. Same on search results. I think they may have been a bit premature.

  • Not impressed..Thought I’d try it out, maybe even post some links or wiki articles, but could not even get it to work. But I’ll try again in a few months to see where they are at. (If they are still around).

  • I’ve been highly disappointed with Wikia Search thus far. They have definitely launched premature. Too bad. You can count on SEOs trying to game anything new that comes out.

  • I wrote a piece about wikia search but i think this might be a good thing if they some how figure out how to weal out the black hat techniques which people may practice

  • You hit one out of the park with Wikipedia Jimmy, but leave search to Big G.

  • I think they are going to have a hard time delivering quality in this format, which is what keeps everyone searching Google-it delivers the best search results. The more difficult it is to “game” the more it causes even spammers to rise to new levels.