Category Archives: Search Engines

Search engine related posts.

An Experiment with Project Wonderful

This was originally posted on It is reproduced here to preserve history.

I’m always looking for new and efficient ways to let people know about WbSrch. That’s why I decided to try advertising with Project Wonderful.

Project Wonderful was built as a banner ad network for web comics.

That doesn’t mean you can only advertise web comics or that advertising can only be placed on web comic sites, but that’s its core demographic.

As a trial, I ran an ad for WbSrch on a few sites that seemed like they’d have people who would be interested in trying out a new search engine. That means other search engines, SEO sites, and literature sites. I also wanted to find out whether webcomic readers were a good target audience.

I deposited $100, and after spending about $70, I think I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

If you want really fine-grained control over your campaigns and ad spending, this is the perfect network for you. You know exactly what you’re going to spend per day on a site, and you can bid on traffic on a per-region basis. Their regions are US, Canada, Europe, and Everywhere Else.

The search functionality is amazing. You can search for gaming sites that have traffic that is at least 50% from Germany and has between 100 and 10000 page views per day, for example.

As a publisher, you can set per-region bid minimums and can auto-approve bids, or require manual approval. This means that you don’t have to worry about running ads for things that you’d be opposed to, so no bacon ads on a veganism site.

Results have been mixed, and I’ve learned more about the types of people who are interested in trying WbSrch.

Some takeaways:

  • Webcomic sites have a high number of page views, but the number of unique users tends to be a fraction of that. The same goes for SEO tools.
  • Blogs tend to have more unique users and fewer page views.
  • Literature sites are somewhere in-between.

Here are my slightly-obfuscated results:

Site Pageviews Unique Views Clicks Spend CPM CPC
A Major Webcomic 581953 11126 35 13.34 0.02 0.38
An SEO Site 233489 17881 141 50.54 0.22 0.36
A Poetry Site 60780 4876 34 5.64 0.09 0.17
A Dutch Site 15584 305 4 0.73 0.05 0.18
A Hungarian Site 3485 730 1 0.35 0.10 0.35
A Search Engine 2711 963 40 0.62 0.23 0.02
A Swedish Site 2315 621 0 0.39 0.17 INF
A Movie Blog 1424 477 0 0.25 0.17 INF
A Knowledge Blog 1285 967 1 0.42 0.33 0.42
A Web Directory 296 83 0 0.05 0.17 INF
A Science Blog 231 124 1 0.29 1.24 0.29

The efficiency varies by site, but some are unbeatable deals for targeted traffic. Others are pricey, but just the type of people that will spend some time searching for themselves and the things they control. Hopefully we’ll be good enough for them to come back again.

There are some sites that I’ll run ads on as long as they exist even though the traffic is low. It’s easy to convince people trying a new search engine to try another new search engine.

I also suspect that my Hungarian and Swedish translations aren’t very good. I know basic Swedish, but the Hungarian is robot-translated.

One of the limitations of Project Wonderful is that if you have a large budget, you may run out of places to advertise efficiently, and for those things that are efficient, they may not get enough traffic to satisfy your hunger (2-cent clicks from your site? I’ll buy at least 1000 per day!). I could easily see struggling to spend a $1000/day budget effectively. If you’re prepared to work on a smaller scale, there is probably no better place to test-run ads because their data and reporting is good and you can learn a lot from your experiments. They also have enough fine-grained control that you can iterate and learn quickly.

$70 is hardly enough to get the full measure of an ad network, but I think I was able to get some useful data out of this experiment. Try Project Wonderful, you may just find it wonderful for your project, especially if your project plays well to webcomic audiences.

Analysis of Search Engine Crowdfunding Campaigns on IndieGoGo

This was originally posted on It is reproduced here to preserve history.

In the process of researching crowdfunding campaigns, I searched IndieGoGo for search engine pitches. I found 22 attempts to fund “actual search engines”.

Here is a list (with links to the IndieGoGo campaign):

Asim Shah (unnamed project)
Vexed Inc
Personalized Curated Mobile Search (no official name, so calling it PCMS)
Fedge No (unnamed project)

Some of these have launched campaigns more than once, but I’m only counting them once. I’m also not counting niche and vertical search, only general search engines.

Aggregate Statistics

Project Asked Pledged Backers Date Comments FB Twitter G+ Pitch Quality
TheNet101 500 0 0 2014-03 1 0 0 0 C+
Thumbar 350000 1050 3 2013-12 2 2 183 0 B 25000 25 1 2012-10 0 4 0 0 C-
Xense 2000000 0 0 Ongoing 2 0 0 0 D+
Iyiyes 250000 0 0 2012-09 0 0 0 0 C-
Aspinosa 35000 0 0 2012-03 0 0 0 0 C+
Rexyo 250000 0 0 2012-09 0 0 0 0 D*
Asim Shah 1500 40 8 2012-08 6 28 1 8 C-
iSearchonline 5000 0 0 2012-12 0 0 0 0 C+
Slikk 100000 40 2 2013-12 2 26 298 2 B
ISearch2Help 550 0 0 2013-05 0 0 0 0 D-
MeSeek 75000 77 5 2014-03 6 1000 517 0 A-*
Vexed Inc 500 0 0 2013-08 3 4 0 4 C-
PCMS 200000 0 0 2013-11 2 672 0 0 B-
Qrate 8500 105 5 2012-12 2 16 1 0 B+
reSEARCH 600000 0 0 2012-12 1 2 7 0 B
Fedge No 20000 0 0 2012-05 1 0 1 0 C-
Crackerror 5000 1 1 2014-07 4 13 1 1 D+
Aglepie 5000 0 0 2011-01 0 0 0 0 C-
QuickVu 867943 100 1 2013-11 4 2 0 0 D
Chronologically 3000 0 0 2013-09 2 0 0 0 D+
Nintag 100000 0 0 2013-03 0 0 0 0 C
* Video missing (deleted from YouTube)
** Some of these are denominated in GBP. I didn’t really pay attention to which, but it doesn’t change the numbers meaningfully, since they’re all nearly zero.

Statistics Summary

No campaigns were fully funded.

None with zero Facebook shares had any pledges.

Only four were shared on Google+ and of those, only 3 had pledges. As always, G+ is not relevant unless you’re a Google employee.

Only four had more than one person listed as being on the team.

14 of the 22 had no backers at all.

9 of the 22 asked for a six-figure or higher sum.

14 projects were not shared on Twitter. Of those, only 2 had pledges.

The biggest pledge was $1050. Of that $1025 was by someone related to (same last name as) the pitcher.

$64 average per campaign, or $19 not counting the bid by a relative.

I tried to find out what became of these pitches and whether they continued after the
failed campaign. Some point to domain parking pages, some to sites
not related to search at all, and at least one points to a malware
site. The best part about the malware site was that a popup said that my “Ubuntu needs
updating” and the update showed up as being for “Ubuntu by Microsoft, Inc.”
Hilarious. Can’t find it again or I’d share a screenshot.


Here are the ones I was able to find anything about:

Nintag (gone as of 2015-09) is a Nigerian search engine. If you search for the words Yoruba, Igbo, or Lagos you
find real results, most of which are based in Nigeria. If you search
for the word “cheese” you get zero results. I guess they don’t
have cheese in Nigeria, and that makes me a bit sad for them. Even though the results are somewhat questionable to a non-Nigerian,
they appear to be at least partially accomplishing their mission.
That’s good because Nigeria should have its own search engine. They
certainly have enough people to serve. I wish them well.

Jixty (gone as of 2015-09) exists. It’s not obvious at first glance, but based on the search results for
“pants” being essentially identical to Google, it looks like they’re a front end to Google (a google Custom Search Engine).

Iyiyes exists. It, too, appears to be a front-end to a Google custom search. I don’t
know why sites bother if a big bag of nothing is all they’re going to bring to the table. Google’s already doing Google. is also interesting. They had the strongest social effort and
scored the highest in my opinion of the different pitches, though
nobody had an “A” rating (but they could have had an amazing video presentation). MeSeek appears to let you rate search
results, but the results look like they came from Google (I can’t be sure). They have
news, horoscopes, and weather, a publisher program, stock quotes, an
advertising platform that only appears to show ads for MeSeek, and
even an article directory, too. You can even change your background on their site. It’s
also in the Alexa top million (around 200,000 as I write this). The campaign was started by a fella inamed Charles Forell, and I’d like to have a chat with him to see what he’s up to.

TheNet101 is also an interesting result. They’re a meta-search engine that includes results from Google, Bing, Blippex, Wikipedia, Blekko, Yelp,, and Faroo.

Wait, what’s Blippex? is a search engine that ranks results based on user engagement determined by using a browser plugin that measures “dwell time”. It’s a very Alexa-like system, one I understand well since I built one to gather data for Alytik, but it adds a bit more.

However, it appears that Blippex is the walking dead. Despite search being online and showing a URL count of 29.3 million, there haven’t been any blog posts since October 2013 and no Github activity since October 2013. This seems like an interesting idea that has been shelved, but not shut down yet. Neat, though, that you can change the search results by adjusting how much the dwell time and age metrics affect ranking.

Thank you,, for introducing me a new and interesting search project, even if it may not still be active. Sorry your crowdfunding campaign didn’t work out.


In most of these pitches, the pitcher didn’t claim any particular domain knowledge required to build a search again, let alone claim software development skill. Combined with a scarcity of working demos, it’s unsurprising that none of these were funded.

Social sharing helps, and no sharing at all is pretty much a guarantee of failure.

Saying you are going to beat Google does not help. I wonder why.

IndieGoGo also doesn’t seem to be the best choice for funding a search engine.

Update September 2015: noted dead links

AdSense Alternatives for Startups and Small Websites

This was originally posted on It is reproduced here to preserve history.

In starting WbSrch, a search competitor to Google, I knew that at some point Google would find a way to “invite us to leave” AdSense. The Terms of Service make it clear that it is incompatible with a search engine (can’t have ads on pages that link to adult content, gambling, etc.)

That day came a little over a month ago when I received a message that ads were no longer running on the site because Google discovered a violation of their TOS in one of the result pages for a particular adult-oriented search term.

Sure, I could remove the offending link from the search results page (which I did because it also didn’t fit with the WbSrch inclusion policy), but that sort of thing would be sure to happen again. Around one sixth of the URLs on the web are porn, so it’s virtually impossible to exclude it all. Be very skeptical of anyone who claims they’re able to block all porn.

The Advertising Options

From my research, these are the notable companies that do online advertising:

Conversant (formerly ValueClick)
Vibrant Media
Yahoo/Bing Ads (formerly
Link Worth
Tribal Fusion

Contacting the Advertisers

I looked into all of them, eliminating those that
require massive traffic volume to get started or have a reputation for
spreading malware.

These are the ones I tried to contact (at the end of April) asking whether their service would be compatible with WbSrch:

Yahoo/Bing (formerly
Conversant Media

I asked the same question of every site:


I run a small but growing search engine at

I would like to know whether your service would be appropriate for use as the advertising provider for this search engine. indexes and links to most of the internet. We try to
exclude adult and other “icky” sites from the index, but that’s not
possible to do with an automated crawler. This means that at any given
time there will be links to things we don’t want to index per our policy
but that will eventually be removed. None of this content is hosted on
our site, but it is linked to depending on the search phrase used.

The search engine has indexes in 25 different languages, though most traffic is for the English-language index.

Given the nature of search engines, would be compatible with your advertising platform?

What follows are the responses to this message and the action I took based on the responses.

Outright Failures

Bidvertiser had a broken captcha on their contact form, so I couldn’t contact them. Their policy says that they don’t allow linking to some content types, so
they probably would have said no.

Bing did not have a contact form. They might now. I think
they are still in alpha/beta/whatever. Even so, they’re still a
competitor, so not something wise to use long-term.


Chitika never responded to my inquiry.

Conversant Media never responded to my inquiry. never responded to my inquiry.


Qadabra responded the fastest, saying that they were totally
compatible with search engines and that they already had some search engine
customers. The message had a friendly tone.

Kontera was the second response. They said they they are not
compatible with search engines, but they were polite about it.

Infolinks replied three days later (on a Sunday) with a
fairly rude message that said “our quality assurance team found that your site
does not meet our publisher criteria” and “We at Infolinks
have the responsibility to keep our advertising environment up to certain
standards to ensure the success of Infolinks for our
publishers, advertisers and those viewing our ads.” OK, that’s fine if you don’t
want to work with a new site, but don’t be rude about it. At least now I know they’re too special and important to ever do business with.

The Winner

Based on these responses I went with Qadabra. They also said
that they work with traffic in all languages. Great!

Setup was easy, and ads started working immediately. I had a
few glitches with some ads behaving strangely, but it was a minor thing. Every
time I contacted them they were very helpful and friendly.

You don’t really get control over the types of ads that are
shown. Most of what I saw were ads for video games and the occasional ad for Russian

I did not enable any of their rich media ads, just banners,
so I have no experience with those. I know they earn more, but I’m generally opposed to popups, popovers, flyouts, videos, and things that make noise. If I visit a site that uses them I’m less likely to return.

Qadabra revenue was significantly less than AdSense, earning about
one sixth as much per thousand impressions. Their system documentation says
that they optimize it over time, so if I gave them a longer trial period, income
would probably go up.

Now that WbSrch has switched to SSL-only (inspired by Reset the Net), I can’t use
Qadabra. They don’t have SSL support, so even if their ads
were enabled, they wouldn’t load. If they add that I’ll consider using them
again, if not for WbSrch then for other sites.

I like the people at Qadabra, and I’m happy with their tech
support, but this experiment has ended after only one month, and there don’t
appear to be any other reasonable alternatives.

Qadabra is relatively new, created in 2011, so
they are still polishing their game. If you want a reasonable AdSense
alternative for lower-traffic sites and don’t require SSL, I recommend them.

The long-term plan always was to build an ad platform
internally to use with WbSrch. Not finding a platform that is a perfect fit for
us is just another motivating factor.

For now, I’m just going to focus on improving the search engine so we’re in a better position to monetize it later on. Since traffic has been increasing by around 100% per month for the last few months, it shouldn’t be too long.

New Search Engine Launches From Oregon

Reprint of a press release originally published on PRWeb at

A new search engine has launched, and it aims to take back the web from corporate search interests. is the first general English-language web search engine created since Blekko was launched in 2010. WbSrch has indexes available in 25 languages. It was written using open source tools and offers an alternative to all-knowing, user-tracking data warehouses that invisibly privilege certain services and social network marketing above more relevant content. With major engines coming under increased scrutiny by antitrust and consumer protection organizations, it has never been more important to have more competition in the world of search engines.

WbSrch doesn’t aim to be the biggest or the fastest. It does things its own way and offers search results that are not driven by popularity or social media. It gives more weight to original, useful, human-created content and doesn’t track individuals or personalize search results based on what it thinks it knows about users.

WbSrch’s philosophy is that content creators should build things for real people, not to please algorithms. Big-search algorithm changes can affect even major businesses when it’s decided that they’re benefiting from so-called “unnatural links.” But linking is what the web is about. “Nofollow” tags negate the very nature of links. Consequences like that are inevitable, though, when there are too few options in the world of search.

Quite simply, the power of search needs to be spread out so that a system that every nation’s economy depends on isn’t concentrated in the hands of so few. WbSrch is a move in that direction.

About Championix, LLC

Championix is a web software company focusing on search and analytics. It was formed in 2014 to help free users and webmasters from the stifling influence of a really small search market. Its first products, the WbSrch search engine and the Alytik Web Analytics Plugin, were released in 2014.

Why I Decided to Build a Search Engine (And You Should Too)

This was originally posted on It is reproduced here to preserve history.

I’ve always wanted to build something big, but never had a burning desire to create any one specific thing. Instead I built lots of little things – small desktop apps, weekend websites, etc.

It wasn’t until AltaVista shut down that I realized that the world needs another search engine. Not just one, but dozens.

Almost all of the search greats have been shut down, bought and shelved, or replaced their engines with Google or Bing. The only real competition we have in English-language search is between Google and Bing, and Bing has been accused of copying Google’s results.

Bear with me for a bit. What I’m about to say will probably sound a bit tinfoil-hat. It’s all just speculation, but there are so many billions of dollars involved that at least some of this sounds plausible.

A search engine is the gateway to the world’s information. If you control
the gateway, you control the information. Knowledge is power, and
gatekeeping is big money. At this point, the leading gatekeeper has too
much money and power and the effects are causing real harm to businesses
and the world economy.

Each time Google changes its algorithm, hundreds or even thousands of businesses are damaged or destroyed. That’s the nature of godlike power – even if you’re just trying to use a little bit, there are side effects.

“Combatting spam” is the main reason cited for their algorithm changes. If you look
at it, much of what Google classifies as spam could just as easily be
classified as “things that don’t make us enough money”. They’re a public
company. They’re required to maximize revenue. To do otherwise would
expose them to shareholder lawsuits.

It’s easy to see the incentive for demoting sites that have ads that earn you 4 cents per
click in favor of sites that earn 12 you cents per click, or of doing
things that wipe out competing advertising companies. There has been an
ongoing war against “selling links”. That’s called advertising. What is
Google Adsense? It’s an ad service that sells links. Convenient, though,
that competing ad service was a casualty of this war on paid links, isn’t it?

Other things also seem suspicious, like the war on guest blogging. Is this Google being jealous of people finding other sites without going through their search engine?

Now we have another wave of chaos, which some people have referred to as “breaking the internet”.
Google added a “disavow links” tool and has many webmasters afraid to
link or be linked to for fear of an “unnatural link penalty”. I get one
or two emails a day asking to remove a link to a website because the
webmaster is afraid Google might not approve. Google has said (or
really, implied) that you don’t need to have links removed, but there’s
one benefit to less linking on the web: You’re less likely to find a
site without going through Google if there are no other links to it.

While this is going on, Google is also adding more direct answers to
searches. Things that you might click on a link to find before now show
up directly as answers so you never have to leave Google’s site. A
question like “How tall is the Eiffel Tower?” could have led you to an
exploration of lots of wonderful information about the Eiffel Tower. Now
it just gives you a fact, and you can go on to the next search. This
means Google is driving less traffic to websites and everyone who isn’t
Google is suffering, slowly but surely getting less traffic.

All of this sounds very much like anti-competitive practices to me, the kind
that you get hit with a regulatory hammer for. Even if only some of it
is true or intentional, it’s a dangerous abuse of power that needs to be
investigated. It’s fine if you want to be the biggest and best search
engine, but don’t be evil.

Why do they get away with it? Because webmasters and users let them. Websites are rarely built for Humans
anymore. Instead, they’re written for the Googlebot with Humans as an
afterthought. That’s why Demand Media was so successful – they designed
and created their content for Google search.

The world needs more search engines. That much power should not be concentrated in one
company’s hands. Next time you search, consider using something other
than the market leader. Bing, Blekko, DuckDuckGo, WbSrch, and Gigablast
are all options. I wish there were even more. If you have the skills,
now has never been a more important time to start building. It’ll take a
while to build something good, but it’s needed. Just don’t try to do it
the way Cuil did – trying to index more pages than Google and running
out of money before they figured out how to be useful. Find a way to be
useful to people, and focus on that.