Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Human-Powered Search Engine: Competition for Wikia?

Posted on: August 28, 2007

Jason Calacanis has started a new pet project which he is determined to drive to the scale of the Yahoo, Google or Microsoft search in the area of web information categorization. It’s the Mahalo Project.

The case apparently seems to be simple: There are lots of algorithm based search engines that, thanks to all the SEOs, you get a lot of junk which isn’t meant to be there. We are starting to slowly see a reliving moment of how the web used to be till Google came along and put things in some sort of order. It might all be unravelling back to chaos yet again. [Needless to say, Jason calls all these SEO optimizers by very interesting and radical names – none of which are pleasant.]

Mahalo aims to sort through information for 10,000 of the top keywords, using people. Their task is to look up for specific and accurate information using google or any search engine, create the page and then manage it. It’s going to be a full-strength manual work involved here. Apparently with the venture already funded with Sequoia, the concept has gained steam and is already available in some format – though nowhere close to the envisioned experience.

Jason is also looking at crowdsourcing the entire deal, so that individuals can take up work, to create such pages with accurate information. They get paid for doing that.

Now, crowds of people contributing.. hmm… where does that sound familiar. Yep, Wikipedia. It is a well known fact that Jimmy Wales is working on a search engine project named Wikia. The correlation between Wikipedia and Wikia is that they’d both be contributed by the general public of users and consumers. Given the success of Wikipedia and the learnings in managing and stabilizing the quality of the content, the same can be put to very good use within Wikia.

So the question remains, Is Jason Calacanis going after Jimmy’s Project? And if this is the sort of future we are looking at, ventures which to leverage the “human” aspect and touch, what is the possibility of opportunities that countries such as china and India bear, with that context?


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