Wikia Search Alpha Release Now Ready For The Open Source Community

Posted Jan 7, 2008

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia has recently released a new open source project.  The new project is supposed to be a search engine that an open source community builds, similar to Wikipedia.  The open source tool used for the platform is Nutch and the index of web pages that revolve around Wikia currently was put together by Grub, a web crawler that Wikia acquired.

While there was a lot of hype built around Wikia’s search, the company insists that it is merely an alpha release and the search result quality will be low initially.  Michael Arrington’s review did not go favorably for the product, thus causing Wales to respond personally.  The debate is that Wikia was supposed to be a Google killer, but the alpha does not look impressive.

Release early, release often.

Itâ??s a project to *build* a search engine, not a search engine. Weâ??ve been telling everyone that constantly. Iâ??m sorry Michaelâ??s disappointed, but having said that, we didnâ??t build it for him, but for people who think that openness, transparency, and participation are more important than slick releases.

When I launched Wikipedia, I wrote at the top of the first page â??Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaâ?. On that day, anyone reviewing it would have laughed. Whatâ??s this? Thereâ??s nothing here! This is not an encyclopedia, it is an empty website with some funny editing syntax!

So the comparison to Google on day one is just mistaken. Google didnâ??t launch a project to build a human-powered search engine, they launched an algorithmic search engine with a clever new idea. So they didnâ??t have to wait for the humans to come in and start building it.

We arenâ??t even running with a real index yet, just a placeholder index. Yeah, the search sucks today. But thatâ??s not the point. The point is that we are building something different.

-Jimmy Wales [comment on TechCrunch post linked above]

Just for reiteration, the difference between Wikia and Google upon early release is that the founders of Google found out how to download and index the Internet before releasing their search engine as mentioned in the book, The Google Story.  Wikia simply released with low quality to finally let the open source community flood in, go to work on the site, and create quality search results.  I first wrote about Wikia in December 2006 when the name was speculated to be Wikiasari.

I’ll hold off on reviewing Wikia Search in depth because it still has a lot of growing to do.  Wikipedia didn’t become the biggest open source encyclopedia a day after it went into public alpha, but now its the #9 most visited web site according to Alexa.  I’m not in the position to judge anything just yet.  This blog post is to just make people aware that the release is officially open.