The Emerging World of Internet Search: "People vs Algorithm"

Search_logoWikipedia's feisty founder and visionary, Jimmy Wales, wowed a tech conference in Tokyo this past week with his vow to grab five-percent of the world's $200-billion Internet search market.

Wales plans on accomplishing his mega-goal with the same simple, radical principle he has used building the world's largest repository of knowledge in human history -Wikipedia. That radical, fundamental principle and tool is people.

Wales launched Wikipedia in 1999 the way most encyclopedists start, by commissioning articles from experts and subjecting them to peer review. After 18 months, he had a pitiful 12 entries; at that rate, it would take a few millenniums to equal Encyclopedia Britannica. So he created a free-form companion site based on a little-known software program called a wiki (the Hawaiian term means quick) that makes it easy—with the "edit this page" button—to enter and track changes to Web pages, with explosive, paradigm-shifting results. Today, Wikipedia hosts two million articles and growing daily.

With the imminent launch of Wales new venture, Wikia Search, Google and Yahoo and Baidu and the existing world of search will be confronted with a delightfully simple and radically new algorithm: the world's human population. To phrase it simply, "People are the new algorithm."

Lined along the horizon facing Wikia Search like the Persians at the Gates of Hell in the ancient Battle of Thermopylae is the fearsome Googleplex, Google's global network of computers, a hidden asset, the biggest computer in the world. Google has been likened to the Borg, the robotic species on "Star Trek" that was assembled from millions of species and computer components. Responding to Google's threat Microsoft alone will be spending $2  billion this year in its attempt to catch up.

In addition to Google, Microsoft, and China's search gaint, Baidu, other little-known emerging threats face Wales global effort. One is Qihoo a Chinese search venture financed by some big U.S. venture capital that is pioneering a new kind of search, focused on unstructured, user-generated content of the type found on blogs and Chinese online bulletin boards, which is more dynamic. Qihoo’s architecture is its secret sauce -it takes the best of Digg, Google and Technorati and rolls them up into one.

All this said, we believe Wales will succeed. Wikipedia has become a self-generating, self-correcting people-powered evolutionary advancement in creating, packaging, and delivery of human knowledge. We've seen nothing like it since the ancient Library at Alexandria burned to the ground (destroying thousands of priceless masterpieces of Greek philosophy and literature). Google's massively computer-powered goals are the same: To organize the world's information. In this new, emerging world of search, it's "Wiki" collaboration vs "Google" massively-powered algorithm. Original posting by Casey Kazan.

See earlier Daily Galaxy posts:

People-Powered Search

The New Universe of Search