Update on Wikia – doing more of what’s working

If there is one thing that I’ve learned in my career, it is to do more of what’s working, and less of what’s not.

In past 24 months, Wikia.com has seen tremendous expansion. Nielsen recently recognized Wikia.com as the fifth fastest growing member community destination in February 2009:

RANK Site Feb 08 Feb 09 % growth
1 Twitter.com 475,000 7,038,000 1382%
2 Zimbio 809,000 2,752,000 240%
3 Facebook 20,043,000 65,704,000 228%
4 Multiply 821,000 2,394,000 192%
5 Wikia 1,381,000 3,758,000 172%
source: Nielsen NetView, 2/09, U.S., Home and Work


Our Wikianswers Q&A site in particular has seen tremendous growth since it was re-launched in February, and we’ll be investing more of our time in it. Our gaming and entertainment networks and communities also continue to see strong growth.

On the other hand, while I personally believe in the opportunity for free software to make serious inroads into the search space, our project, Wikia Search, has not been enjoying the kind of success that we had hoped.

In a different economy, we would continue to fund Wikia Search indefinitely. It’s something I care about deeply. I will return to again and again in my career to search, either as an investor, a contributor, a donor, or a cheerleader.

But for now, we will be closing the doors on the Wikia Search project (as of March 31, 2009) and will be re-directing and refocusing resources on other Wikia.com properties, especially on Wikianswers. Join me there to help provide freely licensed answers to all the world’s questions.

43 comments on “Update on Wikia – doing more of what’s working

  1. I just posed this question at Central Wikia watercooler, but maybe you can answer it for me…

    Will Wikia be switching its wikis from GFDL to CC-by-sa, or offering the individual communities the opportunity to do so?

  2. Please don’t shut down wikia search, why can’t you ask for donations to keep free search alive. I am reseller in India, I can donate some free disk space. I have tasted search freedom, now I don’t want to give it up.

    Freedom is far superior than money.

  3. Dear James,

    Expect this message finds you in the best of spirits. I am sales and marketing professional from India and I must confess that I spend about 20% of my time on Wikipedia.org everyday. Thats where I get most of my knowledge from every walk of life.

    It is a little disheartening to know the future of Wika search. However, the news about Microsoft pulling back all their Encarta software must encourage you to no limit on your efforts to make better Wiki properties. Will we get to see Wikia search in the future?

    I truly wish you and everyone at Wiki, all the best on your endeavors.

    Immense Regards

  4. Hi, this is April 1st joke, isnt it? I dint give a damn about Wikianswers. I use Wikia Search every day and I dont accept it being closed. Thats just a marketing issue.

  5. I only just found the Wikia Search site through an article on how it is to be closed! I’ve never even heard of it and I work in the IT / Web Media industry. May I suggest that the problem is merely one of marketing? I tried a few searches and was blown away by the results. I have added it to my Firefox search engines straight away (the ONLY other one there is Google.ie).

    In summary, please don’t close this superb search engine.

  6. I totally agree. Just learned from this new search engine – never heard of it before but it is great! Don’t close it!

  7. I wasn’t aware of WikiSearch until I read that you were closing it. It’s excellent and innovative and now my first choice so long as it’s there. I use Wikipedia every day (and yes, I did contribute to the fundraising when asked) and WikiSearch would be a natural extension I found this blog through a report about WikSearch’s closure on siliiconrepublic.com here in Ireland – so it’s great to get the opportunity to express my view on the matter. In short, if even people like myself who are supportive of open source don’t know about WikiSearch then it’s a marketing issue. I’m puzzled as to why Wikipedia hasn’t been used to promote it. How difficult would that be?

  8. Dear James,

    As someone who’ve been involved with the search project in it’s early phases, I feel sad for the decision to stop it, but I must admit that I am not really surprised. I agree that the economical crisis is somewhat to blame, but I’m afraid the problem is more than just that. As I mentioned in a comment to one for your first postings to the search’s wiki forum, semantic tagging simply doesn’t work because it is just not good enough. And If I may say so, I think your fried Danny Hillis is starting to realize that too, as can be understood from this job add in the MetaWeb site:


  9. Hi Jimmy,

    Why not focus your efforts on improving Wikipedia’s search engine, integrating the development that’s gone into Wikia so far? It seems a real shame to me that the net’s greatest collaborative resource features such a lacklustre searching mechanism. I’ve resorted to doing Google searches instead, with “site:en.wikipedia.org” affixed!


  10. We have a similar project at stumpedia.com and would welcome all the Wikia Search users. Stumpedia is a social search engine that relies on human participation to index, organize, and review the world wide web. Stumpedia does not depend on bots, algorithms, or company insiders to make decisions on the relevance and ranking of search results.

  11. Wikia search needed a memorable address to succeed. The choice of http://search.wikia.com was very unfortunate.

    If ‘Wired’ can still be confused (http://blog.wired.com/business/2009/04/wikipedia-found.html) after all this time and is persuaded that Wikia.com is closing down, how likely was it that the majority of ordinary users would be able to find http://search.wikia.com – or remember the address when they were inclined to make a subsequent visit?

    I hope you reconsider – and try again. It might succeed if you use something like wsearch.com

  12. Well, even though I work in IT, I hadn’t heard of wikia search before the announcement that it’s to be closed.
    Now that I have actually looked at the website, it looks damn useful, and I’m now trying it out as my primary search engine. Till now, the results look damn useful. And I like being able to give easy feedback.

    Really, I think you have a great product here, which could have used better marketing. Sad to discover something useful when it is just about to vanish again.

  13. The “launch” of Wikia was, in my view, a mistake: when the public announcement was made, end users couldn’t crawl the Web, couldn’t rate, add or delete sites. Only write short articles that unfortunately got removed afterwards. Why on earth did you feel compelled to publicly announce an alpha version?

    Later on things greatly improved, but in such a field missing the initial launch can have a very bad effect. Many casual visitors didn’t come back, probably. That said, Wikia Search was a lot better, but then again, there was a big problem: displaying the site, even on a dual core AMD 64 machine with a broadband connection, took several seconds given all the JavaScript and various connections. Compared to Google, that was unacceptable.

    But even with all these problems, two things are, IMHO, clear: Wikia was improving, and largely so. Kudos to all contributors. And there’s a real need for a free/open source search engine that respects users’ privacy. In my view, you should do everything you can to keep Wikia Search going: two years is too long in IT. Two years later this place may very well be taken by another, non free player.

    Please, tell us (again) how we can contribute and do anything you can to keep it going. Otherwise that will leave us with dmoz which is only half-open “thanks” to AOL… We need Wikia Search and we need you.

  14. Hi Jimmy,

    One can only say that Wikipedia is a reference and its quality is going to be always beyond sheer numbers.
    Now, confess, aren’t you a bit jealous of Twitter numbers ? :-)

    Have a nice Easter in the company of familt and friends,


  15. The search engine is still working as it always did. Was it an April fool?
    If you’re really going to close it we need another organization to host this service. As all the data and sources are available it would be possible. So please ask the Wikimedia Foundation, the Free Software Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation or whomever to resume the project!

    The Internet needs a free search infrastructure!

  16. please ask the Wikimedia Foundation, the Free Software Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation or whomever to resume the project!

    The Internet needs a free search infrastructure!

  17. You created a fine thing in Wikipedia. Whenever I’m using it, I feel like I’m running with the French encyclopedists of the 18th century. Nice job!

    (I’m the guy who helped change mass fingerprinting in Georgia. We sued the governor and lost that round, but we eventually repealed the practice in 2005.)

    Wade Hobbs, Jr.
    Univeristy of Georgia, 1984, MIS
    George Washington University, JD, 1991

  18. aww this is disappointing news. I was wondering what happened to my home page and why I was being redirected. Wikia Search was my favorite search engine it is sad to see it go. I hope that in the future you might be able to bring the project back online.

  19. Why, why
    i have watched at the wikia search project since it started, and i think in the lats months wikia search became a really god search macine, please resume
    In acording to some other peoples:
    The Internet needs a free search infrastructure! really

  20. Sad to see it stoped :( It had improved a lot since it first launched, though it still had a ways to go I was using and contributing. I deeply want to see an open search for the world.

  21. At this moment i wanted to search something on Wikia search but was negative surprised by regarding the Wikianswers side. I discovered Wikia search before a few weeks and find, that it could become even better than google. Maybe with a bigger advertisement other people can realize this tool, which is completly independent from any commercial.
    Please find another way that Wikia search can survive, less costs to run or whatever.

  22. Have you ever heard about the Yacy search engine? It’s a java based free and open source search engine, and, instead of using a single index, shares many indexes on a peer-to-peer network (so anybody can host it, and all servers work together)

    Maybe a new wikia search could be based on it? It would be really based on user contributions, because anybody could download the software and contribute to the search, building a sort of “mirror” (a feature I liked about wikipedia is the presence of a lot of third-part’s wikies, for technical manuals, reviews…).

    Also, since Yacy doesn’t have a central index and every computer can become a crawler, it doesn’t require many memory (2-3 Gigas are enough), and building a wikia search with it shouldn’t cost much.

    Long life to Wiki!

  23. Yes it is really a shame that search.wikia.com is closed.
    I was so surprised that my search integrated in firefox didn’t work anymore.
    I though first of a downtime and retried it several, until I read the announcement on the redirect site more closely.

    It would be really great to relaunch the project.
    Beside a few changes I was really hoping that search.wikia.com would pick up on the success of wikipedia.
    It took sometimes for wikipedia as well.
    Google wasn’t a success over night either.
    It is just disturbing that the only viable search alternative is google.

    Anyway thanks for effort and really hope that wikia search will be relaunched one day whatever form.


  24. It’s so sad!
    I just started using WikiaSearch as my primary search engine and contributing websites and wondered about the forwarding to WikiaAnswers until I recognized it being closed….

    Really sad…

    Constantin (Germany)

  25. There my favorite search engine went…
    I’ve to weep about it here, express my sadness about it.
    Don’t distract me from my sadness with that (relatively) dispensable “wikia answers” toy.

    “In a different economy, we would continue to fund Wikia Search” – It’s a shame. Thought I see another step into that brighter future with that different economy when Wikia Search entered my life…

    Hoping for this thing to rebirth and live on somewhere…
    Jimbo – can you maybe keep us up to date on after death life of this idea?

  26. bad news… wrong decision i believe the closing of wikia :(

    more search engines =/ free web / less search engines =/ unfree web
    more good search engines better web / less good search engines worst web

  27. in bad english

    i’m sad. first i here from wikisearch was march 2009 and now, its gone.
    yes twitter traffic explode, but i here from twitter first in december 2008 and i see more twitter marketing in tv, in newspaper etc.
    i talk with friends nobody nows wikisearch,but the would use it.
    it is a marketing problem, i think wikiserch will work,but with less money you need more marketing time :-)

  28. sorry for mi English.
    I´m very, very sad about this news…
    Open source software gives me hope for the future. I see it as an example and inspiration for all disciplines.
    When I first enter wikia alpha version I was exited but it was very confusing so decided to wait for the natural changes to come with an open source search engine. Today I decided that I was going to use it any way as mi default Search engine because i´m getting really bad vibes from google, and now I found this…
    …so sad, so sad.

  29. From my point of view, it is a bad and regrettable decision to discontinue Wikia Search. This was a bold project with high potential, but needed time to develop and gain momentum. Also, it is a fascinating experiment to see whether a community-based, editable search engine might work and in which ways results differ from other websearch approaches.

  30. Too bad about the project, I hope one day it will return (with a vengeance!) in even better and faster shape. For now I’m sticking with ixquick and scroogle although I have to admit that for truly efficienct searches Google’s still number 1… or at least feels like it.

    Wishing you best of luck in current & future projects :)

  31. Sad stuff indeed, twitter’s growth is immense to say the least, but it is a shame if other projects do not have such exponential growth they are seen as not as important!

  32. A simple idea.

    I am a mathematics teacher. I try to use the Web in my course and I meet problems with “games – sex – mistakes”.

    One way of avoiding such problems is the use of a dedicated search engine that shows only labeled contents.
    The teachers submit themselves (and only teachers) sites whose contents are tested.
    We need also a dedicated web browser that prohibits the changings in urls memorised in the browser.

    I’m going to ask my supervisors for getting such tools.

    What is your idea about that.

    Sorry for my english but I am not native (I am french)


  33. I, like many others, am saddened by the loss of wikia search, bring it back please! Again, I agree with others in saying that I think it was a marketing issue more than anything as whenever I mentioned wikia search to any of my friends or family for the first time, I was usually met with a puzzled look because they hadn’t heard of it. I think given time, and with a bit of marketing and promotion, it would have caught on. I sincerely hope you can find the budget to bring it back in the future, for the good of the world wide web.

  34. I would like to continue with your project Wikia Search is this possible and as?

    that programs are needed?

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