Little more than a year after its debut, Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales has announced the death of Wikia Search, the for-profit operation he once billed as an antidote to the "unhealthy" search practices of Microsoft, Yahoo!, and, yes, Google.
"While I personally believe in the opportunity for free software to make serious inroads into the search space, our project, Wikia Search, has not been enjoying the kind of success that we had hoped," Wales wrote on his personal blog this morning.
"In a different economy, we would continue to fund Wikia Search indefinitely. It’s something I care about deeply. I will return again and again in my career to search, either as an investor, a contributor, a donor, or a cheerleader."
Wikia is Wales' belated attempt to actually make some money from the runaway worldwide success of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia he co-founded under the auspices of the not-for-profit Wikimedia Foundation. A day before she perused his Willypedia, Jimbo told onetime Fox News pundit Rachel Marsden that Wikia was his ticket to the Web 2.0 high life. "I'm supposed to be designing a google killing search engine so I can buy a jet," he typed.
The project was a shameless attempt to not only piggyback on the Wikipedia name, but also to apply Wikipedia's so-called "democratic" model to the notion of web search. Wikia Search allowed everyone and their brother to control what turned up when you keyed in a keyword. Users had the power to "rate" search results, and these ratings were used to massage results accordingly.
Jimbo was under the impression that this somehow trumped the search operations of Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Google. "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."
Apparently, he still believes that. But Wikia Search is no more as of today. Meanwhile, Wikia Inc. - its parent company - lives on. Jimbo says the company is "re-directing and refocusing resources on other Wikia.com properties, especially on Wikianswers." He urges you to "Join me there to help provide freely licensed answers to all the world’s questions."