Wikipedia founder abandons search, blames economy

1 Apr 2009

When Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales turned his attention to human-ranked search, after mastering community-powered online reference, he probably didn’t expect the end result of this project would not be “enjoying the kind of success that we had hoped”.

But such is the nature of a search world dominated by Google, and in an alternative reality where the economy was faring better, Wales said in a blog post on the subject that the foundation would be funding Wikia Search ‘indefinitely’.

However, as it stands, funding and research into the project has stopped as of 31 March 2009.

“We will be re-directing and refocusing resources on other properties, especially on Wikianswers. Join me there to help provide freely licensed answers to all,” added Wales.

While Wales said that the end of Wikia Search was due to the fact that it just wasn’t working out the way he had hoped, in the same breath, he published stats from Nielsen NetView showing that Wikia Search ranked fifth in the top five fastest-growing member community destination in February 2009 (Twitter was at No 1).

For an open source community-driven project like Wikia Search, it may seem unusual that its inability to come up with fantastic growth straightaway would not be reason enough abandon it, but from the outset, Wales had indicated that unlike Wikipedia, the Wikia Search project was expected to turn profits through advertising.

While Wikia Search was founded in 2006, it only went live in 2008. At this point, in an interview with the BBC, Wales said that it was intended to be a profit-making venture.

By Marie Boran