Wikia has added new editing and customization features to its open-source Wiki Search engine, which was heavily criticized after Wikipedia and Wikia co-founder Jimmy Wales released the product as an alpha in January to much fanfare.
Rather than relying only on the algorithms that Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and other consumer search vendors use to derive search results, Wales and co. aim to provide a more personal search experience by leveraging the opinions of crowds. Wikia Search tries to be Google and Wikipedia rolled into one.
Wikia Search users sign up and enter a profile as with any social network. Users then list their interests, which essentially serve as keywords for the search engine, and can link to friends and invite other people interested in the same topics.
Wikia Search now boasts some 20,000 registered users who have written nearly 25,000 “mini articles.” Those users have told Wales and Wikia what they like and don’t like, so the company June 3 rolled out several new features.
Wikia Search now allows users to automatically edit or delete any result, title or summary and to add new results for any search query instantly and rate them from one to five stars. The ranking will gradually influence the ranking position of the result.
Users can also add public comments to any result item, see site previews, and directly annotate the results with text, images, links and forms. Moreover, Wikia Search includes buttons that let users try any search on Google, Yahoo or other search engines with a single click.
Wales showed how the search engine works in a video demo on the company’s site June 3. Using the alpha version of Wikia Search to find “local movie showtimes,” Wales showed how the original results returned the IMDB.com home page as the first choice, which was not going to help him find local movie times. In the new version, ostensibly the one influenced by registered users since January, the first result was a list of movie theaters and cinemas from Wikipedia.
Preferring IMDB.com’s showtimes page, Wales used Wikia Search’s new editing features to add the new link to the results, edited how it was written and added the IMDB.com showtimes search box to the results. He then deleted the Wikipedia result.
The important part is that everything Wales wanted to do he could do. These features embody the crowdsourcing and customization aspects of Wikia Search, which didn’t exist for the first iteration of the product.
After alluding to Wikia Search as a potential “Google killer” last winter, Wales went on the public relations trail in early 2008 to talk up the platform.
A poor showing prompted bloggers to roast the platform and Wales admitted to TechCrunch in a posting June 3 that the first iteration “Pretty much sucked. It has not been usable on a day to day basis.”
The new Wikia Search brings Wales much closer to his goal. “If someone runs a search and doesn’t find the result they’re looking for, we’re giving them the power to go in and fix it,” Wales said in a statement, adding that over time, the human element of crowdsourcing will yield more relevant results.
Though not demonstrated in the video, other new features include better social profile pages, which now include the ability to “nudge” friends (think “poke” on Facebook) and an activity feed showing search result changes.