Well not quite, but the Wikisari search engine could make quite a splash if Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Amazon.com have anything to say in the matter. Using the same basic technology as Wikipedia, and with a provisional launch date planned for the first half of 2007, will be a people-powered, network based search engine.
The name, as always, is interesting in that Wiki is Hawaiian for quick and asari is from the Japanese for rummaging search. If Wikisari can live up to being a quick rummaging search that brings in the people-powered concept then it will certainly be worth keeping an eye on. Whether it can truly challenge Google remains to be seen of course, and despite the multi-million dollar funding from Amazon.com (which has already tried and, at least when compared to the commercial success of Google, failed with its own A9 search) and a group of assorted Silicon Valley venture capitalists. As Google proved way back when, it takes more than money to change the world of search. It takes a truly revolutionary and brave approach to solving a problem.
The truth of the matter is that Google has long since solved the search problem for the vast majority of Internet users, so why look for an alternative solution at all?
Well, according to an article published in the UK newspaper The Times, Jimmy Wales thinks that Google has multiple and obvious flaws and is quoted as insisting “Google is very good at many types of search, but in many instances it produces nothing but spam and useless crap.” Wikisari will replace the computer based algorithms of Google with the editorial judgement of the masses, just as Wikipedia uses this weight of human opinion to sort fact from fiction in its entries. Of course, many would argue that this has proven to be less than perfect in numerous cases, some of which have gone as far as the law courts as a result.
Not that I am against the idea of building a community of trust, far from it, but I do have serious misgivings as to how this can actually translate into a search engine that can seriously rival Google. And that has little to do with the technology aspect, because one search engine methodology has as much chance of working as the next and the proof of the pudding is always in the eating, as they say.
No, my doubts are rather more commercial. I just cannot see how Wikisari expects to gain the necessary momentum of traffic volume to get advertisers to move to it from Google. Without that revenue there is little sustainability of any search engine, and therein lies the rub. Google has that top end of the advertising market sewn up tighter than the neckline of a sweater knitted by my granny. The remaining money is pretty much divided between the likes of Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL.
Which doesn’t leave a whole heap of beans for Wikisari…