Jason Calacanis Launches Human Powered Search Engine Mahalo

They say a 1000 monkeys at a 1000 typewriters would eventually produce a great work of literature such as a Shakespeare play. Well what if you just had 40 monkeys but they were very very smart monkeys? Jason Calacanis wants to find out with his new web startup Mahalo that launched today at the D Conference. A human powered search engine that spits out high quality results created by Mahalo employees or "Guides".

Instant Impressions:

  • Very slick interface
  • Search terms that are available (only top 4,000 live) are very content rich.
  • Results look like a links page *I* would create for something I’m passionate about
  • Embed Media, nice!
  • No Ads! (this will eventually change, but its certainly clean without them)

Testing It Out:

So I thought I would test with an important keyword for one of my web sites which is "european license plates". I didn’t expect this one to be available because its a very nichey search term and it wasn’t. When a search term doesn’t have a page setup you get the option to be notified (1) when its created. Would be interested to also see the ability to get notifications when certain pages have been edited as well. Since my term was not available I get the Google results and luckily for me my site (2) is ranked in the 2nd position :). I also get some related pages from Mahalo, in this case they were related but not relevant.

After spending some time with the site I gotta say its a pretty cool product and concept. However some don’t agree with lots of initial criticism on blogs. Many saying "Its no Google Killer" and they aren’t looking to be as Jason points out in the PR. Think of this as more of a supplemental to your search needs, like Wikipedia and About.com. I’ve hit both of these web sites 1000’s of times and would gladly welcome a new entry into this space.

The real value of the site is going to come from the Guides and community itself. In the name of transparency you can even view the profiles of the Guides and find out some basic information about them. I’m sure some will have issues over this type of content control because they are ultimately the gatekeepers to all pages. It will be important they are non-bias and dedicated to the work in order to keep producing quality pages. Speaking of, are they hiring? I like to say I know something about everything but nothing about anything. Sounds like a great job (or hobby) for someone like myself and I’m sure millions of others. Right now it’s unclear how outside contributes can get involved other than recommending links. As far as how businesses can benefit from the site the rules are the same as with any search engine, produce great content or products and the links and placement will follow.

Also do you know there are still huge amounts of people who haven’t figured out the basics of using a search engine? These are the same people that type the domain name with .com into a search box or actually fall for phishing web sites. They are going to greatly benefit from services like this and frankly need the most help. So call your Grandma in Tennessee and tell her she has now has some help online. She might just tell you Mahalo (Hawaiian for Thank You).

The Ham:

  • This web site is based on the Media Wiki software as we can see on this error page (Already Fixed)
  • Lots of financial backing, some even coming from NewsCorp
  • Can recommend links on existing pages
  • Message board for page discussion
  • Top 7 Links = The New Page Rank

More Coverage at TechCrunch, Mashable, and Jason’s Blog

Ratings: (on a scale of 1-5 hams)

  • SeRP’in
  • Social Search
  • Man vs. Robot

* Update: Hey cool, they already added this post to their press page (http://www.mahalo.com/Mahalo_press)


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2 Responses to Jason Calacanis Launches Human Powered Search Engine Mahalo

  1. David Ward says:

    great pic of Jason! You’ve got real nice blog Sean.

  2. tihopilik says:


    I can’t be bothered with anything these days, but shrug. I just don’t have anything to say recently.