Wikipedia Founder Brings The Wisdom Of Crowds To Search Engine

Dennis Faas's picture

One of Wikipedia's co-founders has just announced major changes to Wikia, the search engine he launched earlier this year. Jimmy Wales describes the relaunch as "a complete overhaul of everything", applying the Wikipedia philosophy of user involvement to search.

This all means that users can add or delete the results appearing for any particular search. They can also rank the relevance of results, which will affect how high up in the list they appear. They'll also be able to edit the headline and description which appears alongside the web address for each result. This means people can change the details listed by the relevant page's creator, in theory to give a more accurate and unbiased description. (Source:

The process will not be moderated, meaning the results from searches will now be down to what users find most relevant and useful.

At the moment the search function only covers about 30 million web pages. That may sound like a lot, but that's in comparison to rivals like Google which cover billions of pages. That's likely to lead to an ironic situation: whereas Wikipedia is often better than traditional encyclopaedias on more obscure subjects, Wikia Search's advantages over traditional search engines will probably be limited to mainstream, popular topics. (Source:

The theory behind Wikia Search makes perfect sense: it will bring together the combined opinion and knowledge of all its users and will therefore give genuinely useful results based on actual experience rather than any automated formula.

The main drawback, however, is that the site will need a lot of users -- likely many more than the current 20,000 who are registered -- to give a fair reflection of what's useful to the majority of web surfers and filter out the effects of the various pranksters and nutcases who so often plague Wikipedia.

And that's the vicious circle: the site needs a lot of users to perform better than the major search engines, but until it does so, will struggle to attract users.

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