The goal for the project is to get 5 percent of the search market, Gil Penchina, chief executive officer of Wikia, said Thursday in an interview. He doesn't know when the service will be released.
"We're really trying to build a movement to make search free and open and transparent," Penchina said. "We have some servers up, and people are hacking away."
By enlisting programmers and users around the world, Wikia is taking a different approach than Mountain View-based Google and Sunnyvale-based Yahoo, owners of the two most-popular search engines, which keep much of their software code secret. Wikia is hoping the success of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that users edit themselves, can be extended to the $7 billion U.S. Internet-search market.
"We think it's the sort of thing that shouldn't be controlled by one company or one group of companies," Penchina said.
Wikia users will collaborate to build an index of Web sites that anyone can edit. They also will be able to fix search results if they don't give useful information, he said.
The site will probably include some advertising, Penchina said. U.S. companies spent $6.95 billion on Internet-search ads in 2006, a 35 percent rise from the year before, according to Merrill Lynch & Co.
Penchina was named CEO of Wikia in June after spending eight years at online auctioneer eBay Inc.
Wikia, which has 33 employees, is funded by investors such as the online retailer Amazon.com Inc., Netscape Communications Inc. co-founder Marc Andreessen and venture-capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners.