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Why the world needs Wikia Search

Wikia Search always seemed like a non starter. Expecting a community driven, open-source search engine to rival Google is a laudable aim, but it never appeared realistic in the short term. And now it's gone.

Right now, in the UK at least, the word 'search' means 'Google'. It's the only game in town. Should we care?

Actually, I tend to think we should.

Google: must do better

For all that Google presents relevant results, quickly, they tend to be wide rather than deep. (Or they do if you use the pure 'search engine' bit of Google.) In other words, if you Google search for 'laptop reviews', you'll get a lot of relevant results, but no way of filtering out which is best (it's Laptop Advisor, by the way).

And just for argument's sake, the same is true of Yahoo, Live Search and the rest.

Wiki-based search was intended to improve this - time and again the true arbiter of quality on the internet has been user-driven. It's how Google got its early breaks, of course.

And ultimately, as the blizzard of content on the web reaches the white noise stage, and web publishers get ever more SEO savvy, user-generated search is likely to become the only viable, quick means of sifting what's hot from what's not.

But these days, just as Google's sheer scale makes it difficult for anyone to prosper alongside it, its size isn't a precursor to invention. Google makes too much money to move quickly.

The search giant has made moves toward personalising search, but it's all very tentative (and I say this as someone who's iGoogle obsession is rapidly approaching neurosis). The vast majority of us use search, scroll and surf to get what we require from Google - and for internet natives used to Web 2.0 functionality, that's not really good enough.

So Wikia Search deserved to succeed. That it didn't may in some way be down to its name, and its positioning as a 'search engine'. To many, Wiki means amateur.

And the internet has matured to the point that we all know where to start looking for the kind of things that require personal recommendation. There probably will never be another big 'search engine', but a series of bespoke, boutique expert guides.

Don't bet against Jimmy Wales' Wikia crew being in the vanguard.

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