Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales yesterday unveiled an “alpha” version of his open source community-driven search engine, ‘Wikia Search.’ The basic premise is that instead of using a typical algorithm to prioritize search results, users can rate them on relevance.
I had a play with the site today, and it appears this will initially take the form of a simple five star rating system placed alongside each search result — though the system is not yet active.
Although Wales insists the engine could eventually become a significant player in the search space, its reliance on user feedback means that it will take some time to become effective. As a result, don’t expect it to challenge Google in terms of depth and relevance of results any time soon.
It does however raise some interesting questions surrounding the future of SEO, SEM and paid search. For one, the advent of user recommendation places emphasis back on the quality and relevance of site content, rather than optimized copy and metadata. Of course, should socialized search take off, marketers may find new ways to subvert and profit from the results.
Search Wikia will have no relation to Wikipedia, and will instead come under the umbrella of Wales’ for-profit organization, Wikia Inc. That suggests it will still present marketing opportunities in some form, perhaps as Google-style sponsored links.
Meanwhile, Google is trying to take a bite out of Wales’s empire with the development of its own user-generated online encyclopaedia to rival Wikipedia. Called ‘Knol’, the service will allow users to generate and edit content.