Wikipedia for search? You can look it up

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KAI RYSSDAL: The Internet phone carrier Vonage is about to get a bill for $58 billion. A federal jury ruled today the company infringed three key patents belonging to Verizon.

The verdict only adds to Vonage's troubles. Shares traded today at about five bucks a piece. That's after going public in May at 17. Wikipedia is getting into the search engine business. That's the online group-edited encyclopedia. Its search will use the same collective process. But for profit. Pat Loeb reports.


PAT LOEB: Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales says a wiki search engine could take 5 percent of the Internet search business.

At a news conference in Tokyo, he took aim at the leading search engines, Google and Yahoo. He described them as black boxes, because they don't reveal how they rank search results. He said the wiki formula that allows users to add and edit content collectively is superior.

The search engine would be a product of Wikia, Inc., Wales's for-profit enterprise.

A google spokesperson says the company welcomes the competition. As does Jim Lanzone, CEO of Ask.com. But Lanzone says he finds it ironic that Wikia is pursuing a search engine.

JIM LANZONE: About 75 percent of Wikipedia's traffic comes from search engines like Google or Ask. So Wikipedia is somewhat biting the hand that feeds them with this new product.

Lanzone says the search business is tougher than it looks. Amazon and Microsoft both have struggled with the technology.Tara Calishain

, editor of Research Buzz, is more optimistic.

TARA CALISHAIN: There have been attempts to make search engines, or at least searchable subject indexes before, using groups of people. And I think combined with the idea of Wikipedia, putting a big data pull out there and letting anybody, you know, splash around and play in it . . . I think it's a great idea and I'm looking forward to seeing how it works.

Calishain thinks a wiki search engine may also have problems, like spammers trying to get their sites to the top of results.

I'm Pat Loeb for Marketplace

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