|Headquarters||Santa Monica, California, U.S.|
|Key people||Jason Calacanis, Founding CEO
Elliot C.R. Cook, COO
Bundy Kim, CTO
|Revenue||Unknown, Startup May 2007|
|Alexa rank||35,968 (April 2014[update])|
|Type of site||Directory|
|Launched||May 30, 2007|
Mahalo.com is a web directory (or human search engine) and Internet-based knowledge exchange (question and answer site) launched in alpha test in May 2007 by Jason Calacanis. It differentiates itself from algorithmic search engines like Google and Ask.com, as well as other directory sites like DMOZ and Yahoo! by tracking and building hand-crafted result sets for many of the currently popular search terms. The company also develops mobile apps. Mahalo means "thank you" in Hawaiian. Mahalo.com President Jason Rapp exited the company in September, 2012. Mahalo.com states its goal is to improve search results by eliminating search spam from low-quality websites, such as those that have excessive advertising, distribute malware, or engage in phishing scams. Jason Calacanis, the founder of Mahalo.com, has said that algorithmic search engines, like Google and Yahoo!, suffer from manipulation by search engine optimization practitioners. Mahalo.com's reliance on human editors is intended to avoid this problem by producing search results that are more relevant to the user. The website has been described as a spam website by multiple internet professionals.
Mahalo.com's directory contracts human editors to review websites and write search engine results pages that include text listings, as well as other media, such as photos and video. Each Mahalo search results page includes links to the top seven sites, as well as other categorized information, and additional web pages from Google. The company also pays freelancers to create pages for piecework compensation. The pages are approved by contract quality control site members on the QC Team prior to appearing in the main index.
Mahalo.com started with the top 4,000 search terms in popular categories like travel, entertainment, cars, food, health care and sports and was adding about 500 more terms per week with the goal of covering the top 10,000 by the end of 2007. This goal had been exceeded when, in December 2007, Mahalo announced that its index has reached 25,000 pages, a year earlier than expected.
Mahalo.com also offers "how to" guides that contain instructions on popular topics in an editorial fashion. Mahalo.com will deliver results for less popular searches from Google.
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Veronica Belmont was hired by Mahalo.com to produce a daily video show for the site. Her first video was an interview with Leeroy Jenkins. Belmont left Mahalo Daily in 2008 to co-host the Revision3 series Tekzilla.
After a month-long search, Belmont's replacement was announced on June 5, 2008. Former cable sports show host Leah D'Emilio won Mahalo Vlog Idol and co-hosted the show with Mahalo.com employee Lon Harris until leaving the show in March 2009.
Mahalo Daily produces a segment every Friday titled "This Week in YouTube". Since D'Emilio's departure from the show, Lon Harris has hosted the show with guest Shira Lazar.
On December 15, 2008, Mahalo launched a new service called Mahalo Answers. The service is similar to Yahoo! Answers in that it allows users to pose questions regarding a wide variety of subjects, and those questions will be answered by other users. A key difference between the two services is that Mahalo Answers allows questioners to give a monetary reward (called a "tip" on the site) to the user who provides the most helpful response. Tips are paid using "Mahalo dollars", which are bought using PayPal, and, once earned, can then either be used to tip other users or be cashed in at the Mahalo Store. At one time, Mahalo Dollars could be converted to cash at a 75% exchange rate, but this ended in June 2010. Mahalo.com has launched revenue sharing to their Answers users, giving both asker and answerer a portion of Google AdSense money in the form of Mahalo Dollars that can be used only to purchase items in the Mahalo.com online store.
Jim Lanzone, then CEO of Ask.com said, "Just like a lot of people who watch movies think they can be scriptwriters, there are a lot of people who use search engines who think they can build a search engine." Lanzone cited the fact that about 60% of search inquiries to Ask are unique as just one of the challenges of running a search engine. Google claims that 20% to 25% of its search inquiries have never been used before.
At the SMX Conference in June 2007, Google software engineer Matt Cutts explained that while he supports different approaches to search it is untrue that humans have nothing to do with Google's search results. Cutts has categorized mahalo.com as spam. He used the terms "cookie cutter", "no value" and "no orignial content" to describe the website and described Jason Calacanis as "skilled..at baiting people" in the context of running Mahalo.com .
Ownership and funding
Lead investors in Mahalo.com include Sequoia Capital's Michael Moritz, an early investor in both Google and Yahoo!; Elon Musk, founder of PayPal; and News Corporation. Other disclosed investors include Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and AOL chairman Ted Leonsis Jason Calacanis said in 2008 that he has enough funding to run Mahalo for four or five years without making a profit. Mahalo eventually hopes to make a profit by selling ads next to search results.
On October 22, 2008, Calacanis announced that he was laying off 10 percent of Mahalo's employees (2 persons) due to the economic downturn. Conflicting reports suggest that the percentage of employees let go was much higher, with reports stating that it was a third of staff.
Developer and security consultant John Schiefer was sentenced to four years in prison in March 2009 in connection with malware activities. Calacanis stated at the time that he was unaware of Schiefer's crimes when hiring him. He hoped to be able to offer Schiefer employment again when released.
Traffic and growth
Mahalo had experienced significant growth since it was launched in May 2007. Mahalo.com traffic had increased from roughly ten thousand visitors a month in July 2007, to two million visitors a month in January 2008. After six months of flat traffic in 2008 the site continued to grow in popularity.
As of April 21, 2010 Mahalo had 9.4 million global (5.7 million US) unique monthly visitors, down from a peak of 14.1 million global (7.4 million US) unique monthly visitors, according to Quantcast.
On March 1, 2011, Calacanis and company president, Jason Rapp, announced via email that the recent changes in the Google search algorithm had significantly reduced traffic, resulting in the need to lay off about 10% of Mahalo employees. Google made these changes in late February 2011 in an effort to improve the quality of high-ranking search results. The changes by Google came after growing complaints that its search algorithm was being exploited by content farms that produce little value to users. According to software firm Sistrix, Mahalo's Google generated search traffic declined by over 75% since these changes were made. In 2014, Jason Calacanis stated that these Google Panda updates had been "killing" Mahalo, which once had $10 million in yearly advertising revenue, that he had to lay off 80 full-time remote workers as a result, and that he desired "revenge" against Google and their web spam expert Matt Cutts.
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