Back to the Search Future – Mahalo

How do you go up against two of the largest companies in the world and actually get some traction?  Nothing beats focus and the human brain.

Congrats to Jason Calacanis on his new search engine, Mahalo.  The Hawaiian word for thank you is the latest salvo in a most competitive space.  However Jason’s strategy is based on the concept that the human brain still has some value (a concept that many search engine programmers have forgotten).

While Google toils to create the ultimate algorithm (see yesterday’s excellent NY Times article on this) Jason has built his new search engine by focusing on using human editors to provide the best search results for the top 33% of the searches which most likely represent 80% or more of the users.

I think he’s on to something.  This sure beats being Microsoft’s Live Search or Ask and trying to go head to head with Google (see the article in today’s WSJ about HP for the flaws in this strategy).  Jason will be able to provide superior quality for the highest concentration of searches.  I believe that if he builds out Mahalo vertical by vertical he can become the "authority" for users quickly by offering high quality and valuable depth.  Two lucrative verticals are personal finance and automotive.

In this brain vs braun contest we will see if Jason can get some early successes. My prediction is that he will end up combining some automation with the human touch (if he isn’t doing it already).

I’m rooting for man over machine as its the flavor that makes the meal.