Saturday, March 10, 2007

Wikipedia founder challenges Google, Yahoo

Wikia logoJimmy Wales, the founder of the popular Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia, said last Thursday that is planning to build a search engine to rival those of Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc.,

Wikia Inc., the commercial counterpart to the non-profit Wikipedia, is aiming to take as much as 5% of the lucrative Internet search market, Jimmy Wales said at a news conference in Tokyo.

"The idea that Google has some edge because they've got super-duper rocket scientists may be a little antiquated now," he said.

Describing the two Internet firms as "black boxes" that won't disclose how they rank search results, Wales said collaborative search technology could transform the power structure of the Internet.

Wales, a former futures trader who has become an evangelist for the free sharing of technology, said users could work together to improve search engines, just as Wikipedia users had tweaked and rewritten articles on the sprawling encyclopedia.

Wikipedia sphereThe process of constant improvement would also make search technology less susceptible to spam, he said.

Founded in 2004 and now employing a staff of more than 30, Wikia hosts group publishing sites on a wide range of topics from psychology to the Muppets.

While Wikia gives away its tools free to users, the company requires that sites built with its resources link to Wikia.com, which makes money through advertising.

Using the same root software as Wikipedia, Wikia is likely eventually to carry more articles than its counterpart, Wales said.

Wikipedia currently has nearly 1.7 million articles in English alone, according to its Internet site.

While Wales declined to give any earnings targets, he said the company had received a $4 million investment from "angel investors" as well as a "very large investment" from Amazon Inc..

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