Wikia Search is a free and open-source Web search engine and a part of Wikia (originally Wikicities) operated by Wikia, Inc., a for-profit company founded in late 2004 by Jimmy Wales and Angela Beesley. The "public alpha" was launched on January 7, 2008. This roll-out version of the search interface was widely criticized by reviewers in mainstream media.
On June 3, 2008, an upgraded version of Wikia Search was released with additional features such as improved screen display and facilities for users to rate, edit and enhance the search results. In particular, it offered users the possibility of adding pertinent URLs to the results displayed and deleting any misleading results with immediate effect. The improvements were widely welcomed by a number of former critics.
By August 2008, Wikia Search held a 0.000079% share of the search market in the U.S., compared with Google's 70.77%. Google is also conducting experiments with page ranking based on user feedback, but Jimmy Wales responded that Google's random tests and a closed algorithm are different from the open community-oriented, so called crowdsourcing, attempts of Wikia Search.
The search engine's result pages currently provide access to three major components:
A prominent feature of the search engine are the human-written mini articles. Mini articles are short articles about the topics given by their title. They are currently hosted by a Wikia wiki.
Whenever a search query is issued, the results page looks in the wiki for a mini article with a name that matches the search query. If a matching article is found, its first two lines are displayed in a box above the search results. If no matching article exists, the search user is given the opportunity to write a new one.
The user interface is tied in with a social network application, called foowi Users can create an account for the application and fill in a profile. The system currently links the wiki login to the social network login. Profile functions include Status, Basic profile, White board, Albums, Friends, Personal and Work.
The web search engine consists of the following components:
The results presentation uses XML-formatted requests to query the index. The XML format used is called Open Index and can be used to query indices other than the one at Internet Systems Consortium (ISC) . The results presentation includes an option to select a different index to be used (out of three).
The servers that implement the web search engine's default index are owned and operated by the
Although the index servers were donated to ISC, the index server's domain name still remains the one of the Wikia Search software labs,
swlabs.org . The search engine's main page and result pages themselves are served by Wikia (note that the result pages' content is retrieved from the index server at
swlabs.org, not from
Search Wikia, the wiki currently hosting the mini articles, is hosted by Wikia. The wiki's content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) . Although formally owned by Wikia, Wikia's management have stated that they want the wiki's user community to govern the wiki, as is custom with Wikia wikis in general.
In a later interview, Wales attempted to clarify several issues. He said that funding received from Amazon.com was not specific to the search project and also restated that Wikia and Wikipedia have separate management, even though they shared three key stakeholders. When asked whether the project was "formally announced", he said it was partly planned and partly a response to news coverage.
On 31 January 2007, at a talk given at New York University, Wales announced that Wikia plans to build a search engine rivaling those of Google and Yahoo based on the kind of collaborative cooperation which has been so successful in developing Wikipedia, arguing that "search should be open, transparent, participatory, and democratic. He later suggested this new approach could account for five percent of the search market.
On March 10, 2007, Gil Penchina, chief executive officer of Wikia, stated in an interview that the goal for the project is to get five percent of the search market and that a release date for services was not scheduled. "We're really trying to build a movement to make search free and open and transparent," Penchina said. "We have some servers up and people are hacking away." The free and open-source approach of utilizing programmers and users around the world is different from that used by major search providers such as Google and Yahoo, who keep most of their code secret, and could provide a search engine that lets users edit and fine tune its results.