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Wikia Search finds few fans in early going

Alpha version of community-driven Wikia search engine has received mostly negative online commentary since its launch this week.

An alpha version of the Wikia search engine has been unveiled this week and, despite the hype surrounding its appearance, online commentary has been overwhelmingly negative.

"Search is part of the fundamental infrastructure of the Internet. And we are making it open-source," Wales said in a statement.

Instead of arriving on the Web preloaded with the complex algorithms required to run a search engine, Wikia Search relies primarily on users to contribute to the platform to increase its effectiveness.

"This site, which we have been working on for a long time now, represents the first draft of the future of search," Wales said.

Since its launch on Monday much debate has arisen surrounding its validity, its potential to compete against search giants such as Google and Yahoo, and its current performance--which, according to many reports, is unsatisfactory.

The search engine also comes complete with several other functions, including a social-networking site, and a "miniarticles" function--a stub of a full wiki page that appears above popular search terms.

The platform attracted a substantial number of negative reviews in its first 24 hours online, with TechCrunch blogger Michael Arrington describing it as "one of the biggest disappointments I've had the displeasure of reviewing."

Wikia Search has so far been criticized for returning poor and inaccurate results, but rather than rushing to its defense, Wales has called the search results available at the moment "pretty bad."

"We are aware that the quality of the search results is low. Wikia's search engine concept is that of trusted user feedback from a community of users acting together in an open, transparent, public way. Of course, before we start, we have no user-feedback data," said Wales.

Wales went on to encourage users to post "bug reports" through a link provided on the page. The bug reports are the best means of improving searches at this stage, he said, adding that in the coming weeks Wikia expects the results to "improve rapidly."

Marcus Browne of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.