Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Wikia not moving Fast

There is some movement in the field of search engines. Jimmy Wales has launched the first prototype of Wiki Search, while Bill Gates is attempting to leave Microsoft with the legacy of a decent search engine by bidding for the Norwegian search engine Fast Search & Transfer.

Wikia or Wiki Search is part of a commercial project, contrary to Wikipedia, and is now in its alpha version and it will take another two years to mature. Wikia is open source and will have to develop with the input of users. Presently mainly English language websites are indexed; the alpha version has some 50 to 100 million web pages of the 18 billion indexed pages by Google or the unofficial estimate of 30 billion pages. Search results will come with mini articles with a small explanation or photograph. Users can write mini articles regarding the subject like in the Wikipedia. User can also rank articles thus providing better results. The site starts out for searches, but in the future images should be searchable as well as news. To protect Wikia from spamming the same methods are being used as with Wikipedia.

I have had a look at the search system and can imagine that it will take at least another two years. Of course with help of the open source community and open content community it should be possible to reach a competitive stage with Google earlier. But this help might be sparse as Wikia is a commercial operation.

The results of the search were very disappointing. I did 3 searches. One calibration was searching for my name, one search action for the blog and one search on cross-media. The search for my name Jak Boumans delivered 11 results, of which 6 were displayed and the series of 7 to 11 was not accessible. The first 6 results were not impressive: 3 results were duplications, 2 were not really important references and one result was okay. For the first 6 results the search engine had picked up references fitting the multiple word criterion; what I did not get to see is whether the other results dealt with Jak and Boumans separately. Searching for this blog’s name, I had 2 hits, both referring to secondary sources and not to the blog itself. Last but not least I searched for cross-media. I did this in order to see how it would handle cross-media, with or without a hyphen and perhaps even a word morph like x-media, with or without a hyphen. The list of its results was overwhelming 1490 hits, again only 10 hits were displayed; there was a reference for the hits from 11 to 20, but again this did not work. Of course, asking for such a fashionable media term is like asking for the word God in the Bible or Allah in the Koran. Clear is that the search engine looked for cross-media and cross media, but not for crossmedia and the search engine did not sidestep to the term xmedia.

On the search engine front there was some encouraging news: Microsoft had made a bid for 837 million euro (1152 million dollar) for Fast Search & Transfer. I have written about this search engine before. I consider it as one of the best one in Europe and a better search engine than Google. So far it has been oriented to the business market. It has dived into the mobile search market and in the advertising sector. When Microsoft has bought this company by the second quarter (it is a friendly acquisition), it most likely will start out to exploit it in the business sector as Fast Search is active there already. I would not be surprised, when Microsoft would start to build up a competitor of Google in the background.

Blog Posting Number: 972


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