Click the image to see screenshots of Search Wikia in action
Just what the world needs, another search engine.
Well, come to think of it, maybe that's exactly what the world needs. Face it, there hasn't been a whole lot of innovation and change going on in the search world for the last few years (which is a typical consequence of having one giant vendor like Google dominating a field).
So maybe a new search engine is something to get excited about, especially when it comes from Jimmy Wales, the man who built the Wikipedia online community developed encyclopedia that also happens to dominate the results for most Google searches.
And when they call this an alpha version, they aren't kidding. Much of the basic functionality of Wikia Search is lacking and the search results are just about the exact opposite of exhaustive.
Still, I found myself intrigued by many of the interesting features that Wikia Search is adding to the search engine mix. Top among these ideas is the concept of a social or community-oriented search engine.
Wikia Search is tied to the company's Wikia online community, though users do not need to be members of the community to leverage most of the features of the search engine.
When doing the search, one of the first interesting aspects that jump out is a top results called the Mini Article. This is basically very much like a short Wikipedia entry, providing a quick description of the search term. And like Wikipedia, anyone can create or edit these Mini Articles.
If users wish to discuss the quality and accuracy of the search results Search Wikia provides, a discussion area lets users create a thread about the specific search term and its results. Also, to the right of the search results is a People Matching field, which shows photos and profile links of Wikia members who match the search results.
The underlying engine for Search Wikia is the open-source Nutch search engine. One interesting way that Search Wikia exposes the art of the search results is by making it possible to click on the score for any search result and see how the engine scored the search result (though you need to be a hardcore search geek to really understand these results).
Using Search Wikia is about as simple as can be. There is one search field and search terms are entered in it. Search Wikia supports some Boolean search terms, but operators such as + and - typically used in Google searches do not work.
Since this is a brand new alpha of a search engine, results are still lacking. I'll keep an eye on Search Wikia over the next few weeks to see if things start to improve.
To try out the alpha of Search Wikia go to alpha.search.wikia.com.