Wikia Search, the new open-source search engine from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, launched yesterday in alpha.

According to Wales though, users shouldn’t be expecting too much from the site just yet, and the actual search results ‘suck’ at the moment. He predicts that it may take a year or two before it can hope to compete with Google.

Like Jason Calacanis’ Mahalo, Wikia Search aims to use human editors to improve its search results, which have been provided by Grub, a company acquired by Wikia last year.

However, while Mahalo employs editors to write search results for the most popular keywords, Wikia Search will look for volunteers to comment on and improve its existing results.

In future, users will be able to edit and improve search results, but for now they can only add preferred keywords to their profiles and help with the ‘mini articles’ that appear at the top of the results pages.

Michael Arrington at TechCrunch isn’t too impressed with the site:

“Wikia search would be a disappointment even without the massive hype we’ve had to endure. And taking that hype into account, this product is an inexcusable waste of time.”

The site’s founder Jimmy Wales defended the site:

“It’s a project to *build* a search engine, not a search engine. We’ve been telling everyone that constantly.”

“We aren’t even running with a real index yet, just a placeholder index. Yeah, the search sucks today. But that’s not the point. The point is that we are building something different.”.

“The social tools are being rolled out as we finish them. It’ll shape up, and hopefully eventually it won’t suck.”

Considering the fact that this is just an alpha release, the blogosphere in general has been pretty hard on Wikia Search. It certainly won’t be a threat to Google for a long time yet, but should improve over time if enough people contribute to the project.