Wikia Search opens up to broad participation

Anyone can influence what the search index contains, as well as rate the quality of its Web pages

Despite the challenges, it's hard to argue against Wales' focus on injecting openness and transparency into the operation of a search engine, he said.

Wikia Search also is in tune with the search trend of focusing on the quality of search results, and not so much, as in the past, on the size and comprehensiveness of the index, Sterling said.

"You have too much noise in search results these days," he said.

The belief is that by bringing human intelligence into the search equation, it will be possible to filter out a lot of the lower-quality pages indiscriminately spidered by automated Web crawlers.

The search engine's "alpha" launch in early January was met with a chorus of boos from bloggers and other industry observers, although Wales had warned people that the first version of Wikia Search would be very raw.

"It was that the initial results were quite bad and the initial product was extreme early alpha. Of course, it wasn't pleasant to see negative reviews but it was expected, because we were launching a project to build a search engine, not a full-on search engine at that point," Wales said.

He hopes people will give Wikia Search another try now, as well as take advantage of the ability to participate in the making of the index. "Now the search results are dramatically improved already, but the real story here isn't yet the quality of the search but the quality of the tools for the public to control the editorial process of the search," Wales said.

For now, Wikia Search will offer a single search box for all file and document types on its index, but later plans to allow people to search specifically for photos, videos, news articles and so on. Likewise, most of the index currently consists of English-language sites but Wales' goal is for the engine to be multilingual eventually.

Search Wikia and Wikipedia operate under two separate organizations that were both founded by Wales: Wikia Inc. is a commercial, for-profit company while The Wikimedia Foundation that oversees Wikipedia is a nonprofit entity. Wikia Inc. and Wikimedia operate independently of each other. Wikia Search is one of several projects and services at Wikia Inc.

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