Thursday, January 03, 2008

Open Source Wikia Search is Coming on January 7, 2006 : Real Competition for Google? or Just a Remake of DMOZ?

The open source search engine Wikia Search is to be launched on Monday, January 7, 2008, according to an email sent to the Wikia Search mailing list.

How will it fare?

According to Garett Rogers at ZDNet, Wikia looking to topple Google, but will fail miserably.

It is hard at this point to be sure that Rogers is right, but the odds are on his side, based upon our experience with the open directory, DMOZ, which is a disaster as a search engine. If Wikia Search follows in the footsteps of DMOZ, it will fail for sure, so that its only chance is to learn from the mistakes that DMOZ has made.

The major flaw in DMOZ is that it serves up search results which are guided by subjective humans making choices according to their own personal problems, biases, judgments and foibles. Frankly, who needs that?

The mentality that pervades the majority of the internet community is about that of a 14-year old, judging by the Google Zeitgeist, which has a list of the most popular Google news searches globally in 2007:

"1. american idol 2. youtube 3. britney spears 4. 2007 cricket world cup 5. chris benoit 6. iphone 7. anna nicole smith 8. paris hilton 9. iran 10. vanessa hudgens."

Thankfully, in Google, if you plug in "Hilton" as a search term, you still get the home page of Hilton Hotels. Unthankfully, however, if you plug in "American", you do not get a top page about America or Americans. Rather, you get American Airlines, because that is the American that most people look for on Google. If you plug in "Idol", you get as a top search result not an informative page on idols but rather some meaningless TV show watched by the masses. Two of the top ten personages are less than honorably deceased and their popularity seems to involve some kind of a decadent voyeurism. Another person in the top 10 is an actress and singer who apparently made the list because of nude photos.

Just who the Internet "community" out there is, we are not sure, but we definitely do not want them, their tastes or their intellect determining what we see on the top pages of our search results.

Nevertheless, it looks like Wikia Search is going to try to go in the same direction, permitting some amorphous "community" to determine what should pop up on the top pages of search engine queries and what not. No, thank you. We prefer to do our own choosing by taking the lesser evil of using search results that have some universal computer algorithm of neutrality.

We ourselves are Google fans, no doubt about it, but even Google has started to develop flaws in pandering to mass opinion by placing to much emphasis on what OTHERS read. Indeed, the more we get the feeling that Google is serving up results of what the uniformed masses are reading or what some deluded august body finds to be appropriate, rather than responding to our keyword searches of what WE are looking for, the less useful we find it to be.

As Rogers writes about Wikia Search:

"The difficulty lies in getting people to use it because most people naturally don’t like change, or to be told what to do."

It is for that reason, for example, that we ourselves never use things like the vapid Google Scholar, which is a 2 horsepower lawnmower search engine for researchers who prefer to wear horse blinders. On the other hand, if that is your bag, go for it, each to his own.

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