Today we’re launching SearchWiki, a way for you to customize search by re-ranking, deleting, adding, and commenting on search results. With just a single click you can move the results you like to the top or add a new site. You can also write notes attached to a particular site and remove results that you don’t feel belong. These modifications will be shown to you every time you do the same search in the future. SearchWiki is available to signed-in Google users. We store your changes in your Google Account. If you are wondering if you are signed in, you can always check by noting if your username appears in the upper right-hand side of the page.
My first thought: who could possibly care about this feature? This feels more like bookmarking than personalizing search, and the feature raises all sorts of questions because of the dynamic nature of the search results.
But then it occurred to me that this feature is supposed to feel like bookmarking. At least if I understand the intent, the goal is not so much about a personalized search experience as it is personalized information management. Think “Stuff I’ve Seen” or “Information Scraps“. Google expects users to treat the results for particular search queries as static pages that can be manipulated and marked up.
I find this idea striking and a bit disconcerting, especially given that, at least in my experience, most web search results are anything but static. But I can see the potential appeal of wanting to stop the world so you can edit it. I’m not entirely sure what makes this approach a search “wiki”, though it is certainly reminiscent of Mahalo and Wikia Search. Incidentally, both of those seem to be struggling.
One incentive for Google to get users to adopt SearchWiki is that its users will increasingly invest effort in storing information on Google’s servers. And, because this information is tied to Google search results, there’s far more lock-in than from using Gmail and Google Apps, whose content can be ported to competing applications.
And, unlike Mahalo and Wikia Search, Google is starting with the lion’s share of the web search market. Even so, I’m skeptical that many users will see value in this feature. Lively lasted about six months. I’ll give SearchWiki a year.