The Knight Foundation, a private not-for-profit American foundation that gives support to new ideas for transforming journalism, media and the arts, promoting engagement across different communities, has awarded a $250,000 grant to Wikipedia for a new project called the ‘Knowledge Engine’. Wikipedia is part of the Wikimedia family and reports say that the formal agreement between the Knight Foundation and Wikimedia intends to create a search engine to rival Google. This isn’t the first time Wikipedia has tried to create a search engine because back in 2009 there was a project known as Wikia Search that unfortunately failed to attract user interest. In the aftermath, Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, said he’d try again, which is exactly what he’s doing now, some 9 years on.
The budget for the entire project is estimated at around $2.5 million, with the Knight Foundation’s grant just a fraction of the total to be raised. The grant was agreed back in September 2015, but news of the deal has only just broken, as work starts on what is being heralded as ‘the world’s first transparent search engine’.
Details of the agreement reveal the Knowledge Engine aims to respond to online trends, as users switch to mobile devices to search, including for information from Wikipedia. However, another influencing factor is that fewer Wikipedia page views are coming directly from Google searches these days, with less Wiki content being displayed within Google’s SERPs.
Information gleaned from the agreement also points to Wikimedia’s belief that commercial search engines dominate today’s use of the Internet, consolidating access to knowledge and information through very advanced technology. In response to this, Wikipedia wants to make searching the Internet a more democratic process by having a search engine that doesn’t have commercial interests as its ‘raison d’être’. It’s understood that the Knowledge Engine will pave the way for users to find information that’s not necessarily of commercial value, but bears the most relevance, by accessing material from Wikipedia’s own knowledge base as well as from its sister sites.
Wikipedia has total faith in its new project and, according to documents accompanying the grant application, believes the only drawback could be an attempt by Google to challenge the Knowledge Engine by creating something similar. The Knowledge Engine doesn’t aim to replace Google as a general-purpose search engine and hopes to eventually draw on knowledge from other open sources too, e.g. from the US Census Bureau.