There’s a great post on Apogee Search Marketing Blog dissecting the reasons they believe that Mahalo won’t work. I’ve been following Mahalo for a while and I’ve got to admit, there are some rather pointed criticisms there.
First, this from the FAQ at Mahalo – a user vetted search service brought to us by Jason Calacanis:
- Mahalo is the world’s first human-powered search engine powered by an enthusiastic and energetic group of Guides. Our Guides spend their days searching, filtering out spam, and hand-crafting the best search results possible. If they haven’t yet built a search result, you can request that search result. You can also suggest links for any of our search results.
- Mahalo. We’re here to help.
I’ll admit the idea of human-powered search is something I’ve said was needed for some time. Maybe it’s as simple as having Google put in a “user feedback” button, or a way in which we can report inappropriate results, but the basic point is, search can’t progress appreciably further without adding a human factor.
Brian Coombs of Apogee had this list of reasons they aren’t likely to beat Google:
- Scaling – You can only scale the service by throwing people at it. If you’ve not built results for a particular query, it’s either going to be blank, they’re going to have to syndicate results from a true search engine, or they’re going to have to build their own true search engine. There are nearly infinite query possibilities; Mahalo can’t possibly cover them all. Today’s major search engines are probably going to provide better results on average than Mahalo. This is unlikely to change in the near future, if it can even change at all.
- Momentum – Here’s the dirty little secret: Providing better query results than Google is not sufficient. All Google has to do is to be good enough to convince people not to change. Mahalo might have the best three results as the top three, and Google might just have them on the first page. That’s probably enough to maintain loyalty. Yahoo and MSN face this same problem, by the way.
- Bias – People are biased. With a small number of reviewers, you can possibly maintain quality control, but as it scales, bias (and outright corruption) will creep into the system. This is part of what happened with Open Directory. If you could find them, there were editors that would add your site to a category for an under-the-table fee.
- New Sites – How are new sites supposed to be found? It’s bad enough with the search engines, but at least with them you can optimize your pages and build links to your site to crawl up the rankings. Other than a major PR campaign to get the editors’ attention, it’s not clear how you do this with Mahalo.
You should really read his full post, entitled “Why a Blacksmith can never be an Algorithm”
I’m still pulling for Mahalo, but Brian’s post sure has given me something to consider.
(Disclosure: I signed up with Mahalo some time ago to help provide search results in my spare time. I am still waiting for that “spare time” to materialize.)
Here are links to two past posts on Search I did. Look at Mahalo and see if you think they’ve answered most of my points on search…