Perennial übergeek Jason Calcanis — “Entrepreneur in Action” at Sequoia Capital and founder and former CEO of Weblogs, Inc. — today unveiled his latest brainchild:

He apparently secured the domain last November, before he knew what he’d ultimately do with it… a tendency I know very well. But he soon found his idea, found some funding, and finally launched the site today.

Mahalo is the world’s first human-powered search engine powered by an enthusiastic and energetic group of Guides. Our Guides spend their days searching, filtering out spam, and hand-crafting the best search results possible.

At first glance, it looks like a cross between Wikipedia (apparently using a similar engine) and the faltering Open Directory Project. The emphasis is on the manual, personal review of links and information. This is, perhaps, the only answer to algorithm-driven searches and the industries devoted to undermining them, but it’s also a massively labor-intensive undertaking. It was how the original Yahoo! directory was built… but even charging sites $300 a pop wasn’t enough to sustain it.

Then again, today, even the best search engines are cluttered with too much information, much of it useless and lost in a fog of SEO and spam. In this new web landscape, can’s people power beat the algorithm?

Reports TechCrunch: “Mahalo has 40 full time guides today and have created 4,000 results pages — each of which will serve approximately 12 various queries. Calacanis says that the guides are steadily improving results and adding more queries – they expect to have 10,000 by end of year, and 25,000 by end of 2008… Calacanis stressed that it is going to take them a couple of years to get really deep results for most queries — until the end of 2007 the site will be in Alpha, and will be in beta for all of 2008.”

In technology, things change fast. But a long-term plan can sometimes be the best way to survive.

With, Calcanis is injecting another Hawaiian word into the tech lexicon (alongside the “wiki,” and the ubiquitous Akamai.

Interestingly, while “mahalo” means “thanks,” the tagline for the new site is, “We’re here to help.” I immediately thought to myself that might be a more fitting domain name, as “kokua” means “help.” As it turns out, Calcanis owns, too. I guess he decided “mahalo” was more catchy.

And the yellow plumeria logo is a good choice. I should know. Though come to think of it, it looks a little like this site’s flower of choice, too!

4 Responses

  1. rox says:

    Well, what’s not to love about the plumeria flower? I have three trees in my yard, all different varieties. :-)

    As for mahalo v. kōkua, maybe they didn’t want to deal with the kahakō, and i do think mahalo is a better known term than kōkua. More on the Hawaiian language here.

    Part of me wonders if the local culture is being co-opted – though who knows about the connections Jason may have with us here in Hawaiʻi? And if “mahalo” can spread “aloha” and truly provide kōkua, then that part works for me.

  2. cw says:

    kokua dot com sounds catchier, man.

  3. ET says:

    I cant believe Jason C. used Mahalo!! Of all the people I wish it wouldn’t have been the most Haole of all Haoles out there!! Ahhhhhhh….. I hope whoever owned that name got a lot for it!?!?!? Is it time to get out my Hawaiian dictionary and my Godaddy discount code and credit card or what?

  4. Thanks for the info. I’ll have to check it out. Hawaiian is such a beautiful language and speaking from a main lander Mahalo is a little more recognizable.

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