The Wikia Search homepage in Firefox
Type of site
|Available in||English and multiple translations|
|Created by||Jimmy Wales|
|Launched||January 7, 2008|
Wikia Search followed other experiments by Wikia into search engine technology and officially launched as a "public alpha" on January 7, 2008. The roll-out version of the search interface was widely criticized by reviewers in mainstream media.
On December 23, 2006, Wales made a passing comment regarding the possibility of a wiki-based internet search. 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". 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.
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." He later suggested this new approach could account for five percent of the search market. 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.
On December 24, 2007, Wales announced that Wikia Search had entered "private pre-alpha". 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 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."
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. The improvements were widely welcomed by a number of former critics.
By August 2008, Wikia Search held a 0.000079% share of the search market in the U.S., compared with Google's 70.77%. 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.
The site was said to be going down after March 31, 2009; 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."
The search engine's result pages provided access to three major components:
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.
The user interface was tied in with a social network application, called "foowi". 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
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)
The results presentation used XML-formatted requests to query the index. The XML format is called "Open Index 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).
The servers that implemented the web search engine's default index were owned and operated by the ISC.
Although the index servers were donated to ISC, the index server's domain name still remains the one of the Wikia Search software labs, The search engine's main page and result pages themselves were served by Wikia (note that the result pages' content was retrieved from the index server at
swlabs.org, not from
The social network, like the results presentation, was hosted by Wikia.
Search Wikia, the wiki which hosted the mini articles, is hosted by Wikia. The wiki's content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). Although formally owned by Wikia, Wikia's management have stated that they want the wiki's user community to govern the wiki, as is custom with Wikia wikis in general.
- Knowledge Engine (Wikimedia Foundation) – an internal search engine for Wikimedia Foundation projects
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