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Google Vs. Wikiasari
[December 27, 2006]

Google Vs. Wikiasari

President and Editor-in-Chief
(The following is taken from Rich Tehrani’s VoIP blog:)

Let me start out by saying Google needs good competitors for a number of reasons. They have become synonymous with search and regardless of the millions or billions of dollars being spent by the competitors, such as Microsoft and Yahoo!, Google (News - Alert) keeps gaining share. Their share is so great, many advertisers don’t need to explore other search engines as advertising vehicles. They can get access to the lion’s share of searches by sticking with Google.

In short, the world of the Web will be a better place if Google gets strong competition. Even if most web surfers stick with Google, strong competition will only force Google to get better and better.

So I read with interest the launch of new search entrant Wikiasari by Jimmy Wales, the man behind Wikipedia. Probably everyone who has used the Internet has heard of Wikipedia, as it is one of the top ranked sites in the Web and is a treasure trove of free information.

The strength behind Wikipedia is the power of the masses which allow the site to be a collaborative free resource. In the world of Wikipedia, entries are updated by a network of volunteers, not company employees.

Expect Wikiasari to embody a similar strategy to build a search engine that competes with Google by allowing humans to fine tune the search results. As everyone knows, all search engines can be vastly improved. So there may be room for more competition in the market.

The question worth asking is if Wikiasari actually brings anything new to the table. Google already has a toolbar on tens of millions of computers if not more, meaning Google already has access to search behavior. The company also knows what these toolbar users are searching for and when they have found their correct result. You read that right - they correlate this data and can come up with ideas of what results make the most sense for each user.

They can even customize the data and give different results based on past behavior. In other words two identical searches for Paris Hilton could come up with vastly different results based on a person’s past history. If I have done many hotel and airline searches in the past for example, my Paris Hilton Google search will give me a result devoid of the paparazzi princess. Someone who has visited teen gossip sites may get 10 results devoid of hotel references.

The point is Google has access to a staggering amount of information on search behavior and has mastered the art of automation and is able to fine tune results not only based on user behavior but based on search and browsing history.

So while the search market desperately needs more competition, the strategy of using the masses to customize results may not be the right approach to take down Google. It may however be a good start that evolves over time to become something more formidable.

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Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor in Chief at TMC. In addition he is the Chairman of the world’s best attended VoIP event, Internet Telephony Conference & Expo. He currently owns shares in Google.

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