Jan 272011



Qwiki, a Flipboard-meets-Wikipedia search engine backed by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, launched on Monday.

“We’ve all seen science fiction films (or read novels) where computers are able to collect data on behalf of humans, and present the most important details. This is our goal at Qwiki- to advance information technology to the point it acts human,” the company explained in its About section.

A search on Qwiki pulls up a topical, Wikipedia-like page with a “rich media narrative” of videos, photos, and audio clips relating to the topic. Like Wikipedia, users can contribute content to a Qwiki page and embed Qwikis on third party Websites.

I was impressed by the few Qwiki searches I performed. In short, the rich media content can enliven a dull factual entry, but the information is far too skimpy and potentially out-of-date to serve as a secondary information source– yet. This will probably change as the crowd-sourcing element picks up (the site is officially a few hours old, after all!)

Take, for example, a Qwiki search on “John LaLanne,” the seminal bodybuilder who died on Sunday afternoon. The entry provides a quick, minute-long audio-visual entry about who LaLanne is, complimented by a four-page slideshow of photos of LaLanne and even of his parents’ hometown. At the end, you are given options to share the entry through various social networks. While short enough for me to sit through what felt like a minute-long documentary, it wasn’t thorough enough to mention the 96-year-old’s death yesterday afternoon.

But Qwiki is still in its infancy. Following a private alpha testing last October, the Palo Alto-based startup opened up for public testing today.

Last Thursday, Qwiki announced its first round of financing: $8 million led by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin.

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