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Wikipedia founder plans Google rival

He gets out of bed, he pulls on his slippers, slips into his dressing gown and for a moment pauses. He takes either end of the dressing gown cord in both hands and fixes his gaze on nothing in particular, his mind is elsewhere. Then that seed of inspiration is borne of all of those smaller notions being pulled together, all at once. With a thin-lipped smile he tugs his dressing gown together, ties himself a strong knot and gingerly marches down stairs. “Today, I’m going to build me a search engine.” He quietly but confidently announces to himself.

You see, that’s about the only way I can see Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia setting about something like this.

I just can’t imagine some corporate ‘blue skies’ brainstorming session giving birth to something so preposterously ambitious.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia, is set to launch an internet search engine with that he hopes will become a rival to Google and Yahoo!

Mr Wales has begun working on a search engine that exploits the same user-based technology as his open-access encyclopaedia, which was launched in 2003.”

But surely you don’t just climb out of bed and decide to take on Larry Page, Surgey Brin et al on a the whim of a early-morning musing? Of course not.

It would appear than Mr. Wales has been talking to some very seriously-minded people at Amazon:

“Earlier this year he secured multimillion-dollar funding from and a separate cash injection from a group of Silicon Valley financiers to finance projects at Wikia.”

Hold on! I thought Amazon already had a search engine? Indeed they do, or rather did:

Amazon’s A9 saw the loss of its driving force Udi Manber to Google earlier this year. Now two years after its launch, A9 itself has lost virtually all of its many of its distinguishing features, according to an update from the company, including: A9 Instant Reward program, A9 Toolbar, Search History, Bookmarks, Diary, A9 Maps, A9 Yellow Pages, A9 BlockView.

Frankly, A9’s always felt like some type of Amazon plaything, a way for Amazon to say they were in search but also pretend it was all just an experiment, if it failed to succeed. I think the failure is now apparent, and Amazon seems to be cutting its losses pretty dramatically.”

Maybe they’re hoping to prove that the old adage that: “fortune favours the brave” has something going for it and that fortune also favours those previously bitten but left no less shy for the experience.

However, word has broke that Amazon are nothing more than an investor in Wikia and are not a technology partner.

This news may serve as good news in the long run as it would also seem that Wikipedia is not free of problems:

“Encouraging signs from the Wikipedia project, where co-founder and überpedian Jimmy Wales has acknowledged there are real quality problems with the online work.

Criticism of the project from within the inner sanctum has been very rare so far, although fellow co-founder Larry Sanger, who is no longer associated with the project, pleaded with the management to improve its content by befriending, and not alienating, established sources of expertise. (i.e., people who know what they’re talking about.)”

In fact, Jimmy Wales himself was drawn to criticize Wikipedia for its less than qualitative approach to content:

“This is garbage, an incoherent hodge-podge of dubious factoids that adds up to something far less than the sum of its parts,…”

In which he was making reference to the quality of two entries picked at random: Bill Gates and Jane Fonda.

In fact, only recently I had good reason to look up the Wikipedia entry for my current car, an Audi S3, which was marked as being unreliable because of what appeared to me to be someone looking to lift the Volkswagen Golf at the expense of the Audi S3.

In search of a good engine to drive quality results

“Mr Wales believes that Google’s computer-based algorithmic search program is no match for the editorial judgment of humans … Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia written by thousands of contributors from around the world, known as “Wikipedians”, using free open-source software.”

So what do we have: an investor in the form of Amazon who has singularly failed in the previous attempt to create a worthy contender to Google – or a contender to any other search engine, for that matter – and a man who wishes to apply the same philosophy to search as to his other project, which draws upon the contributions of the likes of you & me .. which has proved to be as subjective as it is objective in certain places.

I don’t deliberately set out to be too negative, but the facts are there for all to see.

More worrying is that strange tingling feeling I get when I think about the prospect of search engine given the same treatment as Wikipedia, problems inclusive.

Am I the only one who sees [ahem] ‘unofficially sponsored listings’ making their way onto a page one SERP near you?

With all of the best checks in place in the world, someone in the know could easily doctor a listing to give it more merit or more weighting in a one-day-only-extravaganza sort of way to coincide with someone’s marketing campaign.

Unless someone was looking really, really hard, no one would notice, money would have changed hands and the system would have been gamed by the very people running it.

Searching for answers often uncovers some difficult questions…

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

2 replies on “Wikipedia founder plans Google rival”

Surely competition is a good thing it can only improve what google has to offer. Let the games commence.

Well, since this article was written, little has happened.

It’s going to take someone with very deep pockets and a lot more clever minds than Microsoft to beat Google…

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