Mahalo is just plain silly

Reading Dave Winer rant on about how silly the new startup Mahalo is, I decided to give it a shot. Less than a minute into my exploration you can colour me even more unimpressed. Not just because the theory behind it is iffy, but simply because their results suck!

I'll explain why, with some sidebar images of actual results from their site.

Konqueror on Mahalo

Konqueror doesn’t have a search result page, and doesn’t even have any Related Result Pages. Ironically they use the results from Google to hide the fact they returned nothing themselves.

I guess it is a fairly obscure search. I’ll try FreeBSD next.

Konqueror results from Google: About 7,620,000

If you haven't heard of Mahalo (and let's face they've focused their marketing efforts only on the US) it's a new human edited web directory based not on categories of links but on search terms. Essentially it's the same thing as Dmoz and what Yahoo! used to be and uses the same human element. You know, the way we used to do it before we realised how much more efficient computers are at gathering and organising large volumes of information.

FreeBSD on Mahalo

FreeBSD doesn’t have a search result page, and doesn’t even have any Related Result Pages. Ironically as before they use results from Google.

I guess being a critical engine that powers millions of websites and servers across the planet isn’t enough to warrant a search result page. Let’s try something more generic next… what about Singapore?

FreeBSD results from Google: About 39,200,000

I've got to hand it to them for taking on the gargantuan task of creating a search engine where every single search query you could conceive has already been thought of already and has had a page of links created for it, not to mention the equally daunting task of making sure each of these billions of pages are kept up to date and relevant in a world where information is updated and changed every minute.

Singapore on Mahalo

Okay we’re getting a bit back this time, but it’s only silly tourist information! What about at least an infomation bar or economic data or something?

I guess being an Alpha World City isn’t enough to warrant a dedicated search result page either. Okay fine, what about Australia? It’s bigger and more well known…

Singapore results from Google: About 224,000,000

To me it's a nirvana like ideal: as humans we know what we want and need so therefore as humans we are the most capable of fulfilling those needs and wants. The reality as I see it though is that it's an unrealisable fantasy to think we could ever match computers in this field. Heck, that's one of the reasons why we invented computers in the first place: to take care of these repetitive tasks for us accurately and quickly isn't it?

Australia on Mahalo

Okay now we’re really being silly. As with Singapore we’re given links to Related Pages which give us tourist information and an article about Horse Flu, but still nothing actually useful about the country itself. Nothing.

To see where they place their priorities, let’s see what their results for Paris Hilton after this.

Australia results from Google: About 391,000,000

Don't get me wrong, I think search engines still have a long way to go in terms of usability and search result relevance, but I surely don't think the answer is to give up on computers and do it ourselves.

Paris Hilton in Mahalo

So the truth comes out. They have no pages for Singapore, Konqueror, FreeBSD or Australia, but they have thorough, detailed and comprehensive search result page for Paris Hilton.

Paris Hilton results from Google: About 38,900,000

So let's look at these results. Despite the fact Singapore and Australia are both more popular than Paris Hilton by a factor of 10 and that FreeBSD and Konqueror are no lightweights themselves in Google, none of them other than Paris Hilton had a dedicated Mahalo page.

Now I understand that generating billions of pages and keeping them all up to date and relevant is a huge undertaking, so therefore it's only natural to expect there to be less results for queries than Google; and it is true that not all of Google's results are relevant themselves, but come on this is ridiculous.

I think that last search result says it all! Google has absolutely nothing to worry about as far as Mahalo is concerned.