Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales announced that his commercial start-up Wikia will soon start to scour the Web to index relevant sites.
"If we can get good-quality search results, I think it will really change the balance of power from the search companies back to the publishers," said Wales, chairman of San Mateo, Calif.-based Wikia. "I could be wrong about this, but it seems like a likely outcome."
Wikia--which has helped groups set up thousands of Wikipedia-style sites on topics ranging from popular TV shows to specialist health or travel--plans to develop an "open source" Web search service with the help of volunteers.
Wales founded the anyone-can-edit Wikipedia encyclopedia, a noncommercial project that is one of the Web's most popular sites. He also co-founded the Wikia ad-supported network of self-edited wiki sites. However, the two organizations have no formal ties.
The new Wikia search service will combine computer-driven algorithms and human-assisted editing when the company launches a public version of the search site toward the end of 2007, Wales said in a phone interview.
Human editors would help untangle terms with multiple meanings, such as palm, which can refer to location like Palm Beach, Fla., or generic topics like trees or handheld computers.