You're Welcome: Here's… Mahalo

Previously, we discussed the helpfulness of directories and shared some tips on how to avoid being labeled a spammer. Now, we show you the first “human-powered” search engine/directory that strives to be spam-free. Mahalo (“thank you” in Hawaiian) arrived in early 2007, and it has been in beta mode since January 2008. Unlike search engines such as Google, the quality of links is not determined by algorithms. Human editors make conclusions about the quality of submissions made by users. And aside from browsing the directory, a visitor can search a keyword on Mahalo, and view a search engine result page with categorized information.

For example, on the Mahalo homepage, the featured links are usually popular news stories. If you click on “Model Lily Cole reportedly dating Jude Law,” you end up with this results page. Some of the top 7 sites would probably be the same sites you would look at first if you Googled Lily Cole. But the really interesting feature on a Mahalo page is the way info is broken down, as Guide Notes, Fast Facts, Profile and Information, News, Photos and Videos, Blogs and Commentaries, and Related Searches. If you only wanted a basic question, such as “Who is Lily Cole?” there would be no need to go beyond this page.

The site isn’t without its flaws. For example, Mahalo states that it “never links to spam, mediocre content, or deceptive sites. It’s that simple.” But some may argue that it’s not so simple.

On the official Mahalo Blog, there’s a case study post on their decision-making process for accepting, deferring, and banning link submissions. Much of their argument is understandable, but some may take umbrage at one of their reasons for banning iPhone2Win: “… it felt spammy.” Is this evidence of the highly prejudiced nature of human thinking? Or is it a reaffirmation of human common sense, a trait that bots do not possess?

Any way you look at it, though, variety in search engine techniques is a good thing for web users. Mahalo seems best suited for information queries, particularly in the realms of diversion like entertainment, sports, and news. While the editorial process is somewhat controversial, searchers can have reasonable expectations that spam will be light on Mahalo (there are some text ads in the middle of the results pages, but a site has to earn revenue somehow!). However, for online shopping purposes, you may want to stick to traditional search engines with their spiders instead of people (maybe take a stab at’s Live Search cashback).


2 Responses to “You're Welcome: Here's… Mahalo”

  1. 1 Andrew Mager July 10, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    I want to index for Mahalo. Hey Jason, hit me up!

  2. 2 Gabriel July 16, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Jason, thanks for linking to our post about your site! Mahalo is quickly becoming an office fave.

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