Former Weblogs Inc. CEO Jason Calacanis unveiled Mahalo.com, previously referred by Jason as Project X, at the D Conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal today. Mahalo dubs itself as “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.”
My immediate reaction of the new site was “isn’t this a lot like Wikipedia or Yahoo from 1996?” But after taking it in for a couple of minutes I realized Mahalo isn’t trying to out-do Google but rather climb to the top of selected search terms. Mahalo wants to be a one stop site for very specific, though popular, search terms making it a valuable resource to link to or cite throughout the web. While most people may not be swayed to jump straight to Mahalo for their questions, they will learn to trust the source when it appears near the top of their search result.
ChaCha.com, another human powered search engine, hasn’t gotten much traction even though it has been at the search game since late 2006. I imagine Mahalo will have a tough time finding it’s niche since against the likes of Wikipedia. Unlike the open-system of Wikipedia that anyone can contribute to, Mahalo is a controlled by a select few and the general public can merely suggest links to be included in the topic pages.
I imagine Mr. Calacanis has something else up his sleeve and, to be fair, Mahalo is in Alpha (whatever that means). Hopefully this By Humans For Humans approach will prod the other search engines in to improving their offerings but, in the long run, Mahalo will only rise to the like of About.com.
-Human moderated so there will be no Spam.
-Quality links and information organized in one place.
-Focused results for very specific topics.
-Not an open system like Wikipedia
-Small selection of search terms compared to the rest of the Internet.
-Human powered = Labor intensive.
Conclusion: Google and Wikipedia work for me until Mahalo offers something more compelling.