is a web directory
(or human search engine
) launched in alpha test
in May 2007
by Jason Calacanis
. As of January 2008, the project is in beta test
. It differentiates itself from algorithmic search engines like Google
, as well as other directory sites like DMOZ
by tracking and building hand-crafted result sets for many of the currently popular search terms. Mahalo
means "thank you" in Hawaiian
Mahalo's directory employs human editors to review websites
and write search engine results pages
that include text listings, as well as other media, such as photos and video. Each Mahalo search results page includes links to the top seven sites, as well as other categorized information, and additional web pages from Google. The company also pays freelancers to create pages for piecework compensation in the Mahalo Greenhouse - the pages are approved by a full time staff member prior to appearing in the main index.
Mahalo's approach is similar to that employed by Ask.com in 1998. At that time, both Ask.com and Google were up-and-coming search engines. Ultimately, Google prevailed because Ask had trouble scaling up its human edited directory, while Google's search results were generated by software .
Mahalo has started with the top 4,000 search terms in popular categories like travel, entertainment, cars, food, health care and sports and is adding about 500 more terms per week with a goal of covering the top 10,000 by the end of 2007.
This goal has been exceeded when, in December 2007, Mahalo announced that its index has reached 25,000 pages, a year earlier than it was expected.
Mahalo also offers "how to" guides offering instructions on popular topics in an editorial fashion. Mahalo will deliver results for less popular searches from Google.
Search results quality
Mahalo's goal is to improve search results by eliminating search spam
from low-quality websites, such as those that have excessive advertising, distribute malware
, or engage in phishing
scams. Webmasters have a vested interest to see their sites listed. Calacanis has said that algorithmic search engines, like Google and Yahoo
, suffer from manipulation by search engine optimization
practitioners. Mahalo's reliance on human editors is intended to avoid this problem, producing search results that are more relevant to the user.
Mahalo Daily Video Show
was hired by Mahalo.com to produce a daily video show for the site. Her first video was an interview with Leeroy Jenkins
. Belmont left Mahalo Daily to co-host the Revision3
. After a month-long search, Belmont's replacement was announced on June 5, 2008. Former cable sports show host Leah D'Emilio
won Mahalo Vlog Idol
and now co-hosts the show with Mahalo.com employee Lon Harris.
Jim Lanzone, CEO of Ask.com said, "Just like a lot of people who watch movies think they can be scriptwriters, there are a lot of people who use search engines who think they can build a search engine." Lanzone cited the fact that about 60% of search inquiries to Ask are unique as just one of the challenges of running a search engine. Google claims that 20% to 25% of its search inquiries have never been used before.
At the SMX Conference in June 2007, Google software engineer Matt Cutts explained that while he supports different approaches to search, like Mahalo, it is untrue that humans have nothing to do with Google's search results. As examples of human involvement he cited Google's use of hyperlink analysis, toolbar voting, and user reporting of spam. Cutts suggested that Google would evolve to take advantage of social media.
Ownership and funding
Lead investors in Mahalo.com include Sequoia Capital
's Michael Moritz
, an early investor in both Google and Yahoo; Elon Musk
, founder of PayPal
; and News Corporation
. Other disclosed investors include Dallas Mavericks
owner Mark Cuban
chairman Ted Leonsis Jason Calacanis
has said that he has enough funding to run Mahalo for four or five years without making a profit. Mahalo eventually hopes to make a profit by selling ads next to search results.
Traffic and growth
Mahalo has experienced rapid growth since launch in May 2007. Mahalo.com traffic has increased from roughly ten thousand visitors a month in July 2007, to two million visitors a month in January 2008. In the three month period leading up to the date of February 23 2008, the number of global internet users who visited Mahalo.com rose by fifty percent, and the site is currently ranked by Alexa in the top 3000 most visited websites.