Nope. Not yet at least.
But Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales, founder of Wikipedia, thinks he has the Google killer. Wales is set to launch a rival search engine at some point in early 2007. The project is code-named Wikiasari – with ‘wiki’ meaning “quick” in Hawaiian and ‘asari’ meaning “rummaging search” in Japanese.
Wales believes that there is a fundamental problem with an algorithmic search. His belief is that people are more effective than machines. Therefore, an editorial-based search engine will churn out better results than one based on a complicated algorithm.
Wink and Jookster have ventured along this route with some level of success, but nothing to write home about. Digg can also be considered a contender in this space to some extent. Obviously, the latter of the three has had the most success, but it is not exactly a search engine. In addition, it is all tailored around news, which is simply a vertical on most engines.
The revenue model is nothing revolutionary – an ad model. Who would have thought?
Obviously, the biggest challenge will be to garner as much high-quality editor support as possible. Although this does seem like a huge obstacle, I feel that some of the Wikipedia following will latch on to this new idea and continue to participate. Furthermore, the credibility of Wales itself will no doubt attract new editors and contributors. A loyal user base will make or break this venture.
Similar to The Venice Project, this initiative will foster huge PR and buzz. The previous (and present) success of Wikipedia has led to high expectations for Wikiasari. But as many successful entrepreneurs have to come to realize, one previous success does not guarantee another.
Initially, when news came to light about the story, a possible Amazon partnership was mentioned. Since then, Jimmy Wales has confirmed that that is not at all the case.
I think that this project has huge potential. I am a big fan of Wikipedia and the efforts of Jimmy Wales. In fact, I hope to meet the man one day. But that’s beside the point.
Two years ago, I don’t think such a vision would materialize into an actual search engine, as people had no confidence in a user-edited and -contributed website. But Wikipedia has proven out the model, which now paves the way for its successor.
The search engine war will be a race against time. The pure magnitude of this project make take a considerable amount of time before results become overly relevant. By that time, who knows what else will be on the market or if any other competitor will enter the game.
Let the wiki fever continue…
UPDATE: The TechCrunch story and screenshot were confirmed as being false.