Wikiseek: Leveraging Wikipedia For Web Search, Poorly

The Wikipedia search engine has arrived — Wikiseek — but it’s not the Wikipedia search engine you’re thinking of. Wikiseek is completely different than the Search Wikia project backed by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales that I wrote about last month. Below, a look at the disappointing new service along with a revisit to how it is different from Search Wikia.

The idea behind Wikiseek is simple. Crawl only content referred to within Wikipedia itself, which the site boasts will make it better:

The contents of Wikiseek are restricted to Wikipedia pages and only those sites which are referenced within Wikipedia, making it an authoritative source of information less subject to spam and SEO schemes.

The idea of restricting searches to a subset of pages from across the web isn’t new. Eurekster’s long-standing Swicki service allows it. The Google Custom Search engine service allows it, and there are even some popular services using Google that are listed here.

In fact, Google once ran a web-wide, editor-selected index of pages almost exactly like what Wikiseek is doing with Wikipedia. The Google Directory, when launched in 2000, allowed you to search against all the pages from sites that were referenced in the Google Directory. Those were sites that had been hand-approved by editors of the underlying Open Directory Project.

To be clear, a search at the Google Directory didn’t just match the title and descriptions of sites that were listed within the directory. Instead, Google would see that a site was listed, then a search would hit the full-text content of all pages from that particular site and other sites listed in the directory, which had been found through Google’s crawling of the web. It allowed you to effectively search against only approved sites.

That search feature was little understood, little used and was dropped at some point over the past few years. One reason was probably due to the fact that Google’s basic relevancy was good enough, not causing people to feel they needed to drill down into an editor approved area. A bigger issue was likely Google’s poor promotion of the service.

Now Wikiseek is back with effectively the same idea. Hit only pages from sites listed in Wikipedia and you’ll have better relevancy. From the draft press release I was sent in advance of tomorrow’s official launch:

The service is expected to have significantly less Search Engine Optimization (SEO) spam because only “authoritative

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Search Engines: Search Wikia | Search Engines: Wikipedia | Search Engines: Wikiseek

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://blog.outer-court.com Philipp Lenssen

    > Google leads with a long-standing article
    > I wrote on the topic over at Search Engine
    > Watch. Call me biased, but it’s still a
    > good resource.

    Heh :)

    The main problem I see with this site is the “why bother” effect, even if it would be great (which I have to conclude it’s not after reading your review). Why bother bookmarking a secondary engine when a) Wikipedia already appears a lot in Google, when it’s relevant b) I can simply search Google for [wikipedia bla] if I want to find Wikipedia’s article on “bla”. Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia are just closer to the actual user base that may be looking for a Wikipedia search feature, so I don’t see how Wikiseek can compete with them.

  • gary

    Danny,
    On ResourceShelf I’ve compiled a post that offers:

    1) A look at Wikiseek. I ran several searches (similar to what you did) and present results of what I found.

    2) A bit about WikiWax, a cool tool to help search the main Wikipedia database.
    Direct at: http://www.wikiwax.com

    3) A brief intro to Intute, a non-commercial web directory based in U.K. In addition to the directory (amazing quality) they also offer a tool called Intute Harvester. It “harvests” and makes searchable pages from the resources included in the directory.
    Direct at: http://www.intute.ac.uk/harvester.html

    4) Finally, I take a look at how we use Wikipedia content at Ask.com. Often, but not always, as Smart Answers or directly via the “encyclopedia” interface. Disclosure: As you know, I’ve been at Ask.com as Director of Online Info Resources for about a year.

    My post can be found here:
    http://www.resourceshelf.com/2007/01/16/lets-talk-wikiseek-and-wazap/

  • http://seo-theory.blogspot.com/ Michael Martinez

    The complete and total lack of authority, reliability, and accuracy in Wikipedia’s content makes this so-called search engine a double joke. You cannot take bad, unreliable content and then thrust it upon people as if it is the only content on the Web that matters.

    Why on Earth would anyone want to use this tool?

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    The Search Wikia project is still in the formative stages – as far as I know, the development machines aren’t even live yet (I’ve been participating on the mailing list, and have no more connection than that).

    SearchMe is start-up company, which apparently “partnered” to use Wikipedia in Wikiseek.

  • http://www.seonewsblog.com/ Diddy1

    Wow! Here we are expecting the next Google instead we get slapped in the face with a second rate search engine.

    Thank you

  • Bart_l

    Since most of the people prefer Google to search Wikipedia (their own search is so terrible slow) and without trowing in the rather complex syntax to do so; Google Co-op provided a solution: on http://www.wiki-search.eu you can find an implementation of this.

  • http://www.searchme.com Searchme

    Danny and Others – Thanks so much for the comments and feedback. We’ve already added them to the Wikiseek Community Wiki.

    We’d love to have you join us, and help us improve Wikiseek!

    John Holland
    Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Searchme, Inc. (The creators of Wikiseek.)

  • MenloBoy

    Danny

    I think you are doing your readers a disservice. You recommend using Wikipedia’s internal search over this new service. I took the time to compare the two. A search on “bonds” using the search engine you recommend yields this:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Next »

    * Bonds
    Relevance: 99.6% – -
    * Bond
    Relevance: 98.9% – -
    * Bonde
    Relevance: 98.4% – -
    * Bonded
    Relevance: 98.3% – -
    * Bonding
    Relevance: 98.0% – -
    * Bond 22
    Relevance: 97.1% – -
    * BOND
    Relevance: 96.7% – -

    the sames search using wikiseek plug-in yields this:

    Bonds
    Bonds (company) an Australian clothing company …Bonds can refer to any of several things: …Companies called bonds :
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonds

    Chemical bond
    Generally covalent and ionic bonds are often described as strong, whereas hydrogen bonds and van der Waals are generally considered to be weaker.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_bond

    Municipal bond
    Interest income received by holders of municipal bonds is often exempt from the federal income tax and from the income tax of the state in which they are issued, although municipal bonds issued for certain purposes may not be tax exempt.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipal_bond

    Treasury security
    There are four types of treasury securities: Treasury bills, Treasury notes, Treasury bonds, and Savings bonds . …Treasury securities are government bonds issued by the United States Department of the Treasury through the Bureau of the Public Debt .
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treasury_security

    Chemical bond/Temp
    The bonds which are observed correspond to the distance between atoms at which repulsion and attraction are in balance. …The atoms in bonds are electrically neutral and do not attract each other.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_bond/Temp

    Bond (finance)
    Elsewhere in the market this distinction has disappeared, and both bonds and notes are used irrespective of the maturity. …Bonds are generally issued for a fixed term (the maturity ) longer than one year.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bond_(finance)

    Barry Bonds
    Bonds holds a number of Major League Baseball records including the most home runs in a single season set in 2001 with 73. …Barry Lamar Bonds (born July 24 1964 in Riverside, California ) is a Major League left fielder and currently a free agent .
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Bonds

    How can you possibly say that this is not a better search result? Perhaps you are biased. I’m sure you won’t allow this comment to be posted, anyway.

  • http://searchengineland.com Danny Sullivan

    That particular query does seem better. Of course, it’s still odd that the first three links in the blue box for Wikipedia pages show, then you get two more further in the listings. Either put them all where the Wikipedia pages are “supposed” to be or not.

    On other queries, it might not be better. My advice to try searching at Wikipedia was because if you just want Wikipedia info, then Wikipedia gives that to you without all the crud I’ve illustrated some of the other searches can bring up.

    But hey, I totally encourage anyone to try the service. If it works for you or them, go for it. And I’m sure it will improve over time.

    > I’m sure you won’t allow this comment to be posted, anyway.

    Why wouldn’t I? The point of allowing comments is so people can comment on what we’ve written and give their opinions. You don’t have to agree with us.

  • http://wikipedia.un.mythe.over-blog.com alithia

    I am very interest in your article and your critical appreciation of this engine “wikiseek” I consider the proof wikipedia is not at all an encyclopedy. I quoted your on my blog http://wikipedia.un.mythe.over-blog.com , writtent in french, about the french edition . The blog is like an observatory of wikipedia and it proceeds to a strong criticism of the rules, results and effects of wikipedia

  • http://wikipedia.un.mythe.over-blog.com alithia

    I was very much interessed in your article about wikiseek, which appears to me as the proof wikipedia is not organised at all which reveals it is therefore not at all an encyclopedy . I have quoted the article in my blog http://wikipedia.un.mythe.over-blog.com, in french : the blog is an observatory of wikipedia, made to study its rules, results and effects without any favours

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