Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales has brought the Wikipedia ethos to his very own internet search engine. But he insists it will be far more trustworthy than search sites offered by Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft.
Today, Jimbo's for-profit Wikia operation takes the wraps off a beta version of Wikia Search, a search engine that allows everyone and their brother to control what turns up when you type in a keyword. Users have the power to "rate" search results, and as time goes on, these ratings will be used to tweak results accordingly.
As The New York Times points out, this means that anyone on earth has the power to rig Wikia Search in much the same way they can rig Wikipedia. But - as usual - Jimbo is adamant that if anyone tries to game the system, his minions will "block them, ban them, delete their stuff."
We have no doubt that Wikia will have a field day blocking, banning, and deleting all sorts of people, places, and things. The question is whether Jimbo's blinkered followers will crack down on their friends in the same way they crack down on those who don't know the secret handshake.
After all, this is hardly the case at Wikipedia.
Nonetheless, Jimbo insists that his "democratic" model is somehow a better bet than what goes on over at Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft. "I think it is unhealthy for the citizens of the world that so much of our information is controlled by such a small number of players, behind closed doors," he told The New York Times. "We really have no ability to understand and influence that process."
We would argue the opposite: The Wales mentality is far more dangerous simply because Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft don't go around telling people that everything they do has a "neutral point of view."
Google is also toying with an "editable" search engine. But at least Brin, Page, and company have the good sense to keep it away from the John Q. Public - and to stop short of using edits to influence search results at large.
In any event, Jimbo is intent on making some money from his project, something he's been unable to do with the Wikipedia, which is run by the officially not-for-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Wikia also serves up Wikipedia-like info on all sorts of random subjects, and according to The New York Times, the company has already raked in $14m in venture capital - with $10m of that coming from Amazon.
For years, Jimmy Wales has referred to himself as the sole founder of Wikipedia - doing his best to expunge the role of co-founder Larry Sanger. But Jimbo has now gone sofar as to christen himself the "spiritual leader of the project since day one". ®