Something is decidedly under-whelming about Jason Calacanis’ Mahalo.com. I’ve been trying to put my finger on it… on why it is underwhelming.
At first I thought it was the graphic design. To me, the graphic design represents some sort of fun holiday thing. Its not serious. When I want to find something on the internet, I dont want to be entertained or made to feel like I’m on holidays. I want to find my page and get on with it. But no, that’s not it. If the service is good, the graphic design will ‘take on’ the character of the quality of the service (look at Google’s silly graphics).
Then I thought, it is seeing a photo of Paris Hilton on the front page… If there’s anything that tells you that something is not serious, it is seeing Paris Hilton on the front page. When I see a photo of Paris Hilton, I think trash culture, big stupid commercial site trying to sell me junk, and poor souls who find intrigue in other people’s lives etc. But no, that’s not why I’m underwhelmed.
Then I thought, its that front page category browsing layout. Do people use that? To me it feels very yahoo circa 1999 (or before?). If I’m looking for something, I’m not going to try and traverse some deep tree of categories, go back up, then back down some other tree, etc. etc. waste of time. But no, that’s not it.
I think I know what it is.
It feels like a ‘someone is playing the game’ site. It feels like the ‘force’ behind the site is not someone who is really interested in helping me find what I’m looking for. It feels like there’s someone who is smart, capable and has some cash behind them, and is trying to ‘hedge their bets’ on the ‘next big thing’. Mahalo.com is not about me finding what I want, it is about an entrepreneur attempting to pre-empt the next big thing…. which is obviously human powered search results.
There’s nothing new in Mahalo.com, there’s no new ‘order’ on how to view the Internet. There’s no new ‘order’ in Internet search useage. Its just a web application that allows certain people to add links to keywords. There’s no resonating ‘cleverness’… there’s no new ‘mashup’. Just feels like a cludge of Wikipedia/dig/ some others.
This dawned on me when I read about Foxmarks…. read this for more info. Foxmarks is also human powered search results… but it is extremely clever.
Foxmarks basically mines people’s bookmarks that they have saved online. It is a very ‘Google’ concept. It judges how relevant a website is according to how many people have bookmarked it, and links that to the keywords they have bookmarked it under. Very clever.
I dont like criticising a site (mahalo.com) without attempting to think how that site could resolve what I am criticising. So here goes:
Mahalo.com needs to mine user-generated recommended sites. Currently it depends on ‘vigilantes’ … similarly to Wikipedia (proven to be successful). But will this work on a ‘recommended links’ site? To me, it ‘feels’ different …
Foxmarks has found a place where people associate keywords to sites (bookmarks). Google also has a place where people associate keywords to sites (websites, emails, etc. etc.). Mahalo attempts to ask people to ‘explicitly’ recommend sites.
My question is, where else do people collect information about websites … information that could be used to deliver quality search results, better than Google… One specific thing comes to mind… I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you afterwards. 🙂