Last month, fellow Fool Alyce Lomax profiled Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales' decision to launch a new Internet search engine to compete against Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) , Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) , IAC/InterActiveCorp's (Nasdaq: IACI ) Ask.com, and Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) MSN Search.
As both Lomax and Wales point out, it could be years before Wikiasari -- Wales' name for his for-profit venture -- can compete effectively against Google. Nevertheless, I believe it has an excellent chance.
By harnessing the "wisdom of crowds" and using actual humans' editorial judgment, I think Wikiasari can improve search selection. I also remain impressed with Wales' commitment to the open-source movement and his willingness to make the program's source code accessible to the public. Wales believes that thousands of good people, working for free, can make Wikiasari a better product. Together, the two attributes make for a powerful combination.
This past weekend, I discovered a fascinating article on Physorg.com, discussing how researchers are now using Wikipedia to make computers smarter. In essence, the researchers have found a way to allow computers to access the world's collective encyclopedic knowledge to make "common-sense and broad-based connections between topics just as the human mind does."
As the old saying goes, two minds are better than one. If Wikiasari can tap millions of human minds to make better searches, and then find a way to make computers think more like human minds, it could be on to something really big. It might even become a serious challenge to Google sooner than most people think.
At the very least, it should give Google and the other search-engine companies food for though. Perhaps they'll start training their own minds, and the "brains" of their in-house computers, on this emerging threat.
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Fool contributor Jack Uldrich does not own stock in any of the companies mentioned in this article with the exception of Microsoft, an Inside Value pick. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.