What are modern journalists smoking that they are covering such a fundamentally uninteresting tech story as the announcement of Wikiasari as if it’s the coming of the digital messiah or something? Let’s be candid: for all that his brainchild Wikipedia is cool, it’s also fundamentally flawed in many ways and suffers from a myriad of the exact problems you’d expect from a “wisdom of crowds” sort of solution.
Sample coverage: News.com Australia, Business Standard, India, Sydney Morning Herald, BusinessWeek and CBC Toronto.
But the bigger problem is that Wikiasari just isn’t going to work, and here’s why…
Across my various sites, I see thousands of visitors every day, visitors who often arrive as the result of a search. But these aren’t just simple searches like “iPod help” or “blogging tips”, they’re quite complex and involved, often five words or more. Searches like “ipod will not shut off”, “how do i download dvds to my pc laptop” or similar. As demonstrated by data mining tools like HitTail, few searches are created equal and Web users are gaining in sophistication and learning that more words yields much better search results than less words.
Meanwhile, Amazon (Nasdaq:AMZN), with its failed A9 search engine, is ponying up money to see if Jimmy Wales can create a search engine based on community input that is competitive with the Big Search Engine Firms, namely Google (Nasdaq:GOOG), Yahoo (Nasdaq:YHOO) and MSN Live (Nasdaq: MSFT).
It ain’t going to happen, though, and it has nothing to do with how good Wikiasari might be at the end of the day. It’s all about momentum, and I’m baffled that the many, many journalists who are covering this story don’t seem to get it.
As I explained to a reporter just a few days ago:
“The interesting issue that you need to consider with your piece isn’t whether someone has the gumption to say “I’m going to compete with Google”, but whether the market really cares. In my estimation as someone who follows the search engine industry, there’s a fundamental flaw in this new launch: that people will actually switch. In fact, my belief – based on talking to thousands of Internet users – is that the only time someone switches search engines is when their current system begins to fail them, or when their tools switch (IE7 switching everyone to MSN Live, for example).
Far from being able to “steal market share” from Google, the reality will be that it’ll only be if Google fails to produce good search results that another firm will even have a ghost of a chance of succeeding…”
The truth is, Jimmy Wales might well produce an amazing search engine (which I doubt) and that the so-called wisdom of crowds can override the sneaky efforts of spammers and commercial Web users who have basically killed sites like DMOZ, but even then, it won’t matter unless Google stumbles terribly.
Oh, and if they do, there’s a small group up in Redmond (e.g., Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) working like mad to create a competitive search engine too, probably something to keep in mind if you’re thinking about going after the search engine space online.
And, finally, Web-based search engines aren’t interesting in the future anyway. What’s going to be interesting is who cracks the mobile phone search nut properly. Mobile devices are the wave of the future, not Web browsers per se. Just as we’ll see “blogging” go away, so will we also see Web browsing go away as the Internet becomes more and more tightly integrated into your daily computing experience.