Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Open-Source Wiki-Search

Can we ever envisage anyone threatening Google’s position and dominance of the search engine market? It is like asking if anyone can seriously threaten Microsoft’s Office or operating system dominance. The reality is that things change and usually the change is driven by a different business model and approach.

So we read with great interest that Jimmy Wales, the Wikipedia founder, is planning to launch an open-source search engine. He plans to provide the tools and technology to allow programmers across the Internet to collaborate on the development and testing of a search engine and make the results freely available. The project is still in the planning stages and the first test version is due later this year and will help programmers de bug the code.It is already attracting interest not only from the ‘wikiphobes’ and open source followers but also from those tier two search engines that are being squeezed out by the big boys.

Just as Wikipedia was built on collaboration and an open approach, then so this new venture. It will provide a level playing field where lots of people can contribute. Wales aims to give away all the technology, all the data. Release everything under a free license and follow the success story as Wikipedia.

Accuracy and relevance are key to search engines. Today the search algorithm is the most closely guarded secret of companies like Google because it determines how high a particular site is ranked. If the algorithm is public then it would mean site owners could abuse the rankings and attract the attention of spammers. Wales hopes that the community approach that ‘polices’ the Wiki world will transfer to the new search environment and keep the results clean.