Thursday, May 31, 2007

Aloha Mahalo: Man vs. Algorithm

Today was the launch date for the Alpha version of one of the most interesting web startups I've seen in a while. It's called Mahalo.

Mahalo is designed to be a search engine to rival Google and Yahoo. The main thing it does differently is power itself with people instead of algorithms. In this sense, many people are saying it's more like a wiki than a search engine. An information directory. If that's all Mahalo will ever be, let it be known that it's probably the most attractive one out there. I mean - that's got to count for something, right? Nevertheless, it's been met with a waterfall of dogged criticism from pretty much the entire Interweb. I wonder if the venture capitalists are sweating yet. Apparently it's got some impressive financial backing.

But you know what? I tried Mahalo out, and I happened to like it. In all fairness, even if the new search engine on the block's not going to dethrone anyone, I think the creators deserve a lot of credit. The query results page is nicely done, and little details and features are well thought-out. The amount of information on each result page is plentiful but not overwhelming.

To show you how it works, I slapped down a quick search for the movie Knocked Up, which premiers tomorrow in theatres. Here's what the results page looks like:

As you can see, the first portion of results are the top 7 most relevant links. In this case, they give you the film's official site, its Wikipedia entry, IMDb profile, and so on. After that they divvy up the results by categories such as Photo and Video. A sidebar gives you the most basic and probably most sought-after information, such as the fact that it stars Seth Rogan and the lovely Katherine Heigl of Grey's Anatomy prestige. Mahalo also places little icons next to some links, which are explained in a legend at the bottom. Hovering over one of the little yellow exlclamation icons will give you a little warning like, "this site is Flash-heavy" or "incoming popup!" This is what I was referring to earlier as "well-thought out details". Features like this are fairly common, but often more obtrusive. Another fun little addition is the inclusion of credit to the page's creator. (Amusing aside: The guy who wrote the result for Knocked Up is an actor. An actor working for a web startup. Here I thought I was one of a kind.)

Oh, one thing I forgot to mention is the fact that, since it's really new, there are plenty of things Mahalo doesn't have a hand-written page for yet. A search for "Muse", (whom I've been listening to pretty well non-stop all day today) yielded an apology for incompleteness, followed by some of the top Google results they throw in for you. Anyhow, who knows if this thing will ever fly, but I think it's pretty neat. I'll be watching its career with great interest. (First person to identify the reference gets a cookie.)

In other nooz, signups for the muchly anticipated MMO Warhammer Online's Closed Beta opened today. I applied, although I doubt they'd grant me access seeing as I have no prior experience with beta testing. Come to think of it, I could have just lied my head off and they'd probably have been none the wiser. Oh well.

Another random note, I have a whole whack of Joost invites now if anyone's interested. If you'd like one, just drop me a comment and I'll hook you up. Though, interestingly, when I was perusing Digg today I found something that could conceivably be a superior alternative to Joost. It's called and it lets you stream content from a myriad of popular television channels...supposedly. I haven't had a lot of time to fool around with it yet, but I tried getting Fox Soccer without any luck or explanation of error.

And remember my big exodus from Firefox to everything else under the sun, and how I eventually settled on Camino? Well, I've actually had no end of problems with Camino as well recently - problems that I'd dub even worse than those that plagued me with Firefox. For instance, I almost lost this entire entry while writing it, just a couple paragraphs ago, for reasons I can't explain. Fortunately Blogger's new Auto-save feature saved me from going completely bananas from losing so much writing. If I had to be descriptive about the problems I've been having, I'd say it crashes all the time like Firefox did and also screws up web pages, especially when dealing with input fields. My diagnosis? Time for a new browser. Again. God help me.

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At 11:29 PM, Blogger paul said...

Hmm I tried that TV thing, some of the channels didn't work, and it seemed pretty buggy. For example, when I clicked one, I couldn't move the cursor otherwise the display would go blank. And for the cookie I'm thinking from the phantom menace qui gonn? talking about anakin. That's my guess.

At 11:39 PM, Blogger Brillo said...

Yeah the TV thing is weird, I had the same kinds of problems.

VERY close, but no cig - er, cookie.


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