Mahalo is an interesting search engine. Relying more on people than algorithms, Mahalo has a staff that builds pages for common search results. When auser submits a query that doesn’t match one of the prepared pages, Mahalo returns search results from many popular search engines – including Google, Yahoo and MSN – allowing the user to select whch set of returns he wants to parse.
Mahalo has just released Mahalo Answers. It’s similar to Yahoo! Answers in that users can ask very specific questions and other users post direct answers. It’s a unique business model, however, because of the way it’s monetized. Users post rewards with their questions, and the successful answer gets 75% of the prize money.
For example, as I write this article there is a question currently posted that reads “What is a good kind of bicycle suitable for city driving?” It has a bounty of $1 Mahalo dollar, which means that the person who answers – and has his answer selected as the winning answer by the person who posted the question – will get $.75 and Mahalo will get the balance.
Some of the questions currently posted beg very opinionated responses, though those are the questions I would seed if I were looking to kick-start a service similar to this. As the system matures, I expect Mahalo Answers to be a vibrant community-assisted platform for finding fairly objective answers to tough questions or questions that aren’t easy to find answers to using other, more traditional search engines. The financial incentive here will give the service a huge edge over Yahoo! Answers in a space that Google surrendered when it retired Google Answers.