Wikia Search

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Wikia Search
Wikia Search.png
Wikia Search homepage
The Wikia Search homepage in Firefox
Web address search.wikia.com
Commercial? Yes
Type of site Search Engine
Registration Optional
Available language(s) English and multiple translations
Owner Wikia Inc.
Created by Jimmy Wales
Launched January 7, 2008
Current status Closed

Wikia Search was a short-lived free and open-source Web search engine launched by Wikia, a for-profit wiki-hosting company founded in late 2004 by Jimmy Wales and Angela Beesley.[1]

Wikia Search followed other experiments by Wikia into search engine technology and officially launched as a "public alpha" on January 7, 2008.[2] The roll-out version of the search interface was widely criticized by reviewers in mainstream media.[3][4] After failing to attract an audience, the site closed by 2009.

History[edit]

On December 23, 2006, Wales made a passing comment regarding the possibility of a wiki-based internet search.[5] The result was extensive media coverage in multiple languages, in outlets like The Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald, and online editions of Forbes and Business Week publishing the statement as an announcement, encouraging the company to re-brand and relaunch its previous search engine proposal under the temporary name of "Search Wikia".[6] In a later interview, Wales attempted to clarify several issues. He said that funding received from Amazon.com was not specific to the search project and also restated that Wikia and Wikipedia have separate management, even though they shared three key stakeholders. When asked whether the project was "formally announced", he said it was partly planned and partly a response to news coverage.[7]

On January 31, 2007, at a talk given at New York University, Wales announced that Wikia plans to build a search engine rivaling those of Google and Yahoo based on the kind of collaborative cooperation which has been so successful in developing Wikipedia, arguing that "search should be open, transparent, participatory, and democratic."[8] He later suggested this new approach could account for five percent of the search market.[9] On March 10, 2007, Gil Penchina, chief executive officer of Wikia, stated in an interview that the goal for the project is to get five percent of the search market and that a release date for services was not scheduled. "We're really trying to build a movement to make search free and open and transparent," Penchina said. "We have some servers up and people are hacking away." The free and open-source approach of utilizing programmers and users around the world is different from that used by major search providers such as Google and Yahoo, who keep most of their code secret, and could provide a search engine that lets users edit and fine tune its results.[10]

On December 24, 2007, Wales announced that Wikia Search had entered "private pre-alpha".[11][12] In August 2008 Wikia Search launched an official version of the Wikia toolbar that can be downloaded and added on to the Firefox browser. In October 2008, WISE – Wikia Intelligent Search Extensions[13] was released. In March 2009, the project ended: "... Wikia Search was not making its numbers. With only 10,000 unique users a month over the past six months, Wales said, it was hard to justify the resources being put into it."[14]

On June 3, 2008, an upgraded version of Wikia Search was released with additional features such as improved screen display and facilities for users to rate, edit and enhance the search results. In particular, it offered users the possibility of adding pertinent URLs to the results displayed and deleting any misleading results with immediate effect.[15] The improvements were widely welcomed by a number of former critics.[16]

By August 2008, Wikia Search held a 0.000079% share of the search market in the U.S., compared with Google's 70.77%.[17] While Google was conducting experiments with page ranking based on user feedback around this time, Jimmy Wales stated that Google's random tests and its closed algorithm were different from the open, community-oriented crowdsourcing attempts of Wikia Search.[18]

The site was said to be going down after March 31, 2009;[19] however, as of April 16, 2009, the site was running, but with "So long and thanks for all the fish! Have a specific question? Try wikianswers!" near the bottom of the page. Finally on May 14, 2009, the search engine service was brought to a halt. Queries to the Wikia Search website were redirected, with a message in part stating "The Wikia Search project has ended."

Search engine[edit]

Features[edit]

The search engine's result pages provided access to three major components:

Mini-articles[edit]

A prominent feature of the search engine were the human-written mini articles. Mini articles were short articles about the topics given by their title. They were hosted by a Wikia wiki.

Whenever a search query is issued with mini in front, the results page looked in the wiki for a mini article with a name that matched the search query. If no matching article existed, the search user was given the opportunity to write a new one.

Social network[edit]

The user interface was tied in with a social network application, called "foowi".[20] Users could create an account for the application and fill in a profile. The system linked the wiki login to the social network login. Profile functions include Status, Basic profile, White board, Albums, Friends, Personal and Work.

Web search engine[edit]

The web search engine consisted of the following components:

  • Crawler(s) (Grub),
  • Indices, the search engine proper (three selectable indices, by default an index that uses Nutch)
  • and browser based results presentation (written in Javascript).

The results presentation used XML-formatted requests to query the index. The XML format is called "Open Index[21] and can be used to query indices other than the one at Internet Systems Consortium (ISC). The results presentation once included an option to select a different index to be used (out of three).

In early 2009, Yahoo! BOSS was being used as the back-end.[22]

Organization[edit]

The servers that implement the web search engine's default index[23] are owned and operated by the ISC.[24] Although the index servers were donated to ISC, the index server's domain name still remains the one of the Wikia Search software labs,[25][26] The search engine's main page[27] and result pages[28] themselves are served by Wikia (note that the result pages' content is retrieved from the index server at swlabs.org, not from wikia.com).

The social network, like the results presentation, was hosted by Wikia.

Search Wikia,[29] the wiki which hosted the mini articles, is hosted by Wikia. The wiki's content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL).[30] Although formally owned by Wikia, Wikia's management have stated that they want the wiki's user community to govern the wiki,[31] as is custom with Wikia wikis in general.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Book Stops Here". Wired News. March 13, 2005. Retrieved August 1, 2007. 
  2. ^ The "public alpha" of Wikia search project
  3. ^ "Wikipedia founder's search engine gets bad reviews". January 7, 2008. Retrieved January 7, 2008. 
  4. ^ "Critics Wallop Wikia". Business Week. January 8, 2008. Retrieved January 10, 2008. 
  5. ^ Doran, James (December 23, 2006). "Founder of Wikipedia plans search engine to rival Google". The Times. London. Retrieved January 6, 2007. 
  6. ^ About search
  7. ^ "Q&A With Jimmy Wales On Search Wikia". Search Engine Land. December 29, 2006. Retrieved January 6, 2007. 
  8. ^ Wales: Search Wikia Will Succeed Where Google Cannot, InformationWeek, February 5, 2007. Retrieved July 27, 2007.
  9. ^ Wikipedia founder says to challenge Google, Yahoo, Reuters, March 8, 2007. Retrieved March 9, 2007.
  10. ^ Jonathan Thaw, Wikia plans editable Web search engine, Bloomberg News, March 10, 2007
  11. ^ Wales, Jimmy (December 24, 2007). "private pre-alpha invites available". Retrieved December 24, 2007. 
  12. ^ "Wikia Search Project to Launch January 7, Wales says". The Washington Post. December 24, 2007. Retrieved December 24, 2007. 
  13. ^ Search.wikia.com
  14. ^ Wales giving up on Wikia Search
  15. ^ Wikia Search opens its doors, Heise Online, June 6, 2008.
  16. ^ Second Wikia Search version gets backing from former critics, Computer World, June 4, 2008
  17. ^ Wikia Search, Cuil trailing Google by a long shot, Network World, August 19, 2008
  18. ^ Boulton, Clint (August 28, 2008). "Google Search Ranking Feature Threatens Wikia Search". eWeek (Ziff Davis Media). Retrieved September 7, 2008. 
  19. ^ "Update on Wikia", Jimmy Wales
  20. ^ Svn.swlabs.org
  21. ^ Search.wikia.com
  22. ^ N2.nabble.com
  23. ^ Not-quite-ready-yet.index.swlabs.org
  24. ^ Jonas, Trevor (January 7, 2008). "Wikia, Jimmy Wales Unveil First Public Alpha of Open Source Search Project". BusinessWire.com. Retrieved May 10, 2008. 
  25. ^ Swlabs.org
  26. ^ The Javascript code that fetches search results from the index server directly refers to the current index servers.
  27. ^ Re.search.wikia.com
  28. ^ Re.search.wikia.com
  29. ^ Searchwiki.wikia.com
  30. ^ The copyrights page of Search Wikia
  31. ^ Beesley, Angela (February 4, 2008). "Re: Mandate". searchwiki mailing list. http://lists.wikia.com/pipermail/searchwiki/2008-February/000101.html. Retrieved May 12, 2008.

External links[edit]