Search Engine Pays For Best Answers

Dennis Faas's picture

'Human-powered' search engine Mahalo is hoping capitalism can solve the spread of inaccurate information online. It's launching a new question-and-answer service where the questioner pays whoever gives the most helpful reply.

Mahalo (Hawaiian for 'Thank you') is a search engine where all results are produced by humans (paid freelancers) rather than a computer index. While this clearly can't compete with Google's convenience and depth, the idea is to produce more credible and authoritative results for the most common topics.

The new service is a take-off of sites such as Yahoo answers and Wiki Answers, which allow users to post questions and reply to others. Both sites work entirely on a volunteer basis, which means there's little guarantee that answers will be accurate; they may be biased by personal opinion, or even be little more than a corporate shill.

The Mahalo scheme will allow people asking a question to offer a 'tip' for the best answer. They state an amount in advance and then pay it to whomever they feel has given the most useful answer. If none are up to scratch, the questioner can choose not to pay anyone, but this will be noted on their account which could reduce the chances of people answering future questions. (Source:

Those who answer questions and earn cash must build up thirty dollars in their accounts before they can withdraw funds, though the site will start some accounts with a five- or ten-dollar credit to jump-start the scheme. Mahalo will take a 25% cut on each question.

Interestingly, the site is using 'Mahalo dollars' (each worth one US dollar) and refers to the payments as 'tips'. This isn't explained, but may be for tax or legal reasons. (Source:

Google used to run a scheme along the same lines, though it also took a 50 cents-per-question fee. That service closed in 2006, though archived questions and answers are still online.

| Tags:
Rate this article: 
No votes yet