March 18, 2007

Business Strategy Nugget For Wikipedia-like "Google Killer" Search Engine

In a discovery worthy of echoing, a nugget of information has been found regarding some of the strategic thinking behind the so-far vaporware Wikipedia-model search engine. And wonder of wonders, miracles of miracles, there seems to be a method in the madness. In a New Scientist interview with J-Wales, he states (my emphasis below)

Why are you developing a search engine?

Transparency is what I'm really after, the idea that we can go in and see exactly how web pages are being ranked. We need to have a public debate about it. We just don't know if there is any dishonesty or strange incentives in today's algorithms that rank searches. Since news of this venture broke (see we have been contacted by more than one second-tier company that develops search engines. They recognize that acting individually they are going to have a hard time catching up with Google, because Google has so much money and so many great people.

What's your plan for search?

It's too early for specifics, but one thing that has worked is an alliance in which people contribute to a free software project. We saw this succeed with Apache, the open-source webserver. Apache was a tiny group of volunteers, yet the vast majority of its code has come from companies who paid people to work on it. It's essentially an industrial consortium that has been able to fend off Microsoft's closed-source webserver. So it makes sense for second-tier search companies who are falling behind Google to contribute to a free search software project that will make us equal to Google in terms of search quality.

Note, just in passing, he's wrong: We do know that there are "strange incentives in today's algorithms that rank searches". The poster-child there is Wikipedia! (given its search-ranking dominance).

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikia-search | on March 18, 2007 06:11 PM (Infothought permalink)
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So where is this going? A search engine whose rankings are made by editors paid by a consortium of companies?

The editors would have to be paid in some way (reputation, job prospects or cash) because the result would be exploited by for-profit companies in some dimension.

That said, the idea could actually work -- and become an actual public good in the process (not unlike Linux) -- a status Google has only provisionally.

Posted by: anon at March 18, 2007 06:54 PM

"The editors would have to be paid in some way ... because the result would be exploited by for-profit companies in some dimension."

I'm not sure that follows. Or at least, they're going to try to see if people can be induced to do it for the sheer joy and happiness, or perhaps protection of their top rankings!

I mean, if you got the #1 spot for a keyword, maybe you'd be willing to fight off spammers to keep that spot ...

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at March 18, 2007 07:21 PM

They'd certainly be willing to fight off all the other spammers to keep that spot.

Posted by: Chris Edwards at March 19, 2007 02:27 AM

I think That this just gives more options to every day people looking for the right information I think it's a wonderful thing! I say good luck!

Posted by: james kingsted - Domain Inform at April 6, 2007 04:42 AM