Yesterday I spoke with Alex Pham from the Los Angeles Times for an article she was doing about Jason Calacanis’ new “search engine” called Mahalo. The article was published today and I am quoted in it:
Calacanis, a New York native who lives in Brentwood, said Mahalo didn’t have to keep up with everything â€” just things that most interest people.
“It will take some time to complete, but when it’s done, it will be glorious,” he said. “Until then, we invite people to compare our results with any search engine out there. For results that we do have, they’re going to be five to 10 times better because humans have thought about them.”
Mahalo faces other challenges. With editors behind each search, there’s the opportunity for bias, said Chris Winfield, president of 10e20, a New York search-marketing firm.
Alex Pham’s full article online at the Los Angeles Times: Mahalo, Call it a search engine curator
My other thoughts on this:
For awhile I have heard rumors about Calacanis’ upcoming search engine. One thing that I will say about him is that he is excellent at drumming up publicity. Will that translate to a search engine that is going to change the world or even make a dent? I doubt it.
The new project launched in alpha yesterday and is called Mahalo. Originally I heard it described as a cross between Google and Wikipedia. On the surface it sounds like an interesting idea. Why? Because right now many people actually look at Google’s results as a cross between Google & Wikipedia due to how often a wiki entry comes up at the top of a Google search. Jason has experience with creating content networks (Weblogs Inc), with getting paid editors (Netscape) and now has the backing (Sequoia Capital, Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban and more) to do it.
The biggest hurdles? Google, Wikipedia & Man Power
After looking at it just doesn’t really seem like a search engine to me. As Allen Stern put it:
I am not sure I get why this is a “human search” when it really is more of a “human directory” – right? Or am I missing something? Either way, maintaining those pages will be an ultra-bitch. What happens when new “gossip” needs to be added about someone, how will those pages stay up-to-date?
It’s an interesting concept but can it scale? It seems to me that this project would be extremely labor intensive. Why do people love Google so much and rely on it so heavily? Not because it returns the best result for the most popular searches but because most of the time it returns really good results for the obscure phrases. If you take a look at Google’s recently released Hot Trends you’ll see that people are searching for obscure terms as much as they are searching for popular terms. So for a search engine to be truly effective, it has to be able to return those results (the long tail phrases) just as effectively as the popular ones. Can you imagine how labor intensive that would be? Right now Mahalo is only returning results for the top 4,000 search terms (as determined by them) and hopes to reach 10,000 by the end of the year.
Also when you have a human edited search engine, you have to worry about things such as: objectivity (skewing search results based on the editor’s belief), corruption (editors accepting bribes for better rankings, mentions, etc – DMOZ anyone?) and retaining talent (editors being taken by competitors much like Jason did with Netscape and Digg contributors).
One thing that we will see is a lot of publicity around it. Aside from the mainstream media coverage, an interesting event took place last night on Digg when co-founder Kevin Rose submitted the new search engine. When Kevin Rose submits a story it is basically guaranteed to hit the homepage of Digg. As my friend Muhammad Saleem pointed out in a comment on Digg:
Very interesting to see that Kevin Rose would submit Mahalo (of Calacanis, ex-Netscape boss). We all know that Kevin-submitted means 100% FP. Is there something more going on here behind the scenes?
But it is going to have to be something really special in order for people to take notice (after the initial hoopla) and possibly switch from their current search engine provider. But hey, as Don Dodge from Microsoft said recently, 1% of the search engine market share is worth over $1 billion. But then again as Aaron Wall points out, Mahalo could just be:
- About.com, without topical expert guides
- Del.icio.us, without popular votes
- Wikipedia, with paid editors and rarely updated guides
- only focused on popular crap
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