I recently signed up to be part of the public alpha test for a new style of search site called Quiki. While the concept is certainly interesting (see below), it doesn’t completely work for me.
I just can’t get my head around making Qwiki my first stop for information inquires instead of sticking with Google or Yahoo!. At its heart Qwiki is an information aggregator and media playback service, which I suppose appropriates it for different uses than a traditional search site. But since, as far as I can tell, a “qwiki” (as the founder calls it) simply recites the opening paragraph of the subject’s Wikipedia page while displaying a rotating Ken Burns-style series of Google Image search results, I just don’t see the value added (at least for most inquires).
The automated voice Qwiki employes is lightyears ahead of what we had just 10 years ago, but still isn’t at the point of failing to incite a smarmy laugh on my part after every mispronunciation or unnatural inflection. I can go to Wikipedia myself and read the overview of any subject I wish, with the additional option of examining all the tasty details if I choose. Moreover, as I found from watching a few qwikis, not all Wikipedia pages are ideal for a quick verbal reading, especially those which contain lots of numbers (which is apparently the case with many city overviews on Wikipedia. I quickly got overwhelmed after hearing about the city’s population, land area, founding year, and annual budget within several seconds of one another).
And I’ve done enough Google Image searches to know that even the most banal query will undoubtedly result in a picture of a girl in a bikini (or worse). I haven’t yet seen that in one of my qwikis yet, but it seems unavoidable as the limited (and seemingly tightly controlled) number of qwikis available expands to the unlimited and organic search capabilities that are required if Qwiki’s hopes to compete with Google.
Still, it has taken me time to warm up to other new technologies and I’m interested to see how Qwiki, and my feelings toward it, evolve. Some of its most promising features may be outside of search: