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The Internet

Could Open Source Lead to a Meritocratic Search Engine? 148

Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes "When Jimmy Wales recently announced the Search Wikia project, an attempt to build an open-source search engine around the user-driven model that gave birth to Wikipedia, he said his goal was to create "the search engine that changes everything", as he underscored in a February 5 talk at New York University. I think it could, although not for the same main reasons that Wales has put forth -- I think that for a search engine to be truly meritocratic would be more of a revolution than for a search engine to be open-source, although both would be large steps forward. Indeed, if a search engine could be built that really returned results in order of average desirability to users, and resisted efforts by companies to "game" the system (even if everyone knew precisely how the ranking algorithm worked), it's hard to overstate how much that would change things both for businesses and consumers. The key question is whether such an algorithm could be created that wouldn't be vulnerable to non-merit-based manipulation. Regardless of what algorithms may be currently under consideration by thinkers within the Wikia company, I want to argue logically for some necessary properties that such an algorithm should have in order to be effective. Because if their search engine becomes popular, they will face such huge efforts from companies trying to manipulate the search results, that it will make Wikipedia vandalism look like a cakewalk." The rest of his essay follows.

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