Mahalo and Site Experience Optimization
Ken Yarmosh, Former Viget
Mahalo is serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis' latest project. The goal of Mahalo is to create a human powered search engine for the most commonly searched terms of the web. In a time in which everyone is starting a business by trying to take advantage of the long tail -- that is, attempting to profit on the niche nature of the infinitely niche web -- Calacanis and Mahalo buck that trend. Calacanis says the "big fat part of the tail are the searches that people do over and over again." When people search for "Lindsey Lohan" or "digital camera," he wants them to think of Mahalo. Mahalo has been compared to Wikipedia and About.com. Wikipedia, however, leverages the wisdom of the crowds and is a collaboration of groups of interested individuals crafting and editing the entries of the world's largest encyclopedia. About.com and Mahalo are similar but the former focuses on subjects and topics (e.g., Money Planning) versus search terms. The commonality of the two is that they are written by guides. Calacanis recognizes that his human-powered search cannot compete with the likes of Google when it comes to the extensiveness of its results. But he's not trying to dethrone Google. He wants to "hand-craft the cleanest, most organized, and spam-free SeRPs [search engine results page] available today." In an interview with Loic Le Meur, Calacanis talks about his problems with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and its experts, some of whom toyed with Mahalo. Jason advocates for a different idea that he calls "Site Experience Optimization," which focuses on making sites better for people. SEO, by contrast, is all about optimizing a site for a machine -- a computer algorithm. SEO and Site Experience Optimization are not conflicting ideas. Blackhat SEO, determined to create SPAM results and game search engines, care nothing about Site Experience Optimization. But any intelligently designed web site considers both computers (algorithms) and humans. They are designed to ensure that sites are found by search engine robots and, ultimately, are useful for visitors.