Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales [cq] has set Jan. 7 as the launch date for an open-source search project that eventually hopes to challenge Google and other established players.
The Wikia Search project has assembled the basic technologies for a search engine, including a search application, search algorithm and Web crawler. The project will allow technology enthusiasts to help filter sites and rank search results, using a community model akin to that of Wikipedia.
The idea is to challenge the established players by offering a search service that is more transparent to end users, meaning they can see how search results are arrived at. Wales has described Yahoo and Google as opaque services that don't explain how results are arrived at.
Wales has started to invite a handful of people to test an early version of the search platform, which will be publicly launched on Jan. 7, he wrote in an email to the Wikia mailing list Monday.
The search tool will take time to evolve, and the initial service won't match the capabilities of the leading search engines. Contributors will have to develop the search platform over time, in a similar way that Wikipedia took time to get enough entries to be useful.
The search project is part of Wales' for-profit company, Wikia Inc., which offers a software platform that anyone can use to build wikis. In a similar way, the Wikia Project will allow other people to build their own search engines.
Wikia Inc. was started in 2004 and has received investment money from Amazon.com and Bessemer Venture Partners.