The founder of Wikipedia, the user-edited online encyclopaedia, is developing a Wiki-based search engine to compete with established commercial search engines from Google and Yahoo.

Jimmy Wales announced plans to develop the search engine, to be named "Wikiasari," or "Wikia," for short, in a 23 December online posting.

The Florida-based Wikimedia Foundation, which manages the website Wikipedia.com, emphasises that the search engine project is not associated with the foundation.

Wales said that current search engine technology, using complex algorithms to complete searches, is "broken."

"It is broken for the same reason that proprietary software is always broken: lack of freedom, lack of community, lack of accountability (and) lack of transparency. Here, we will change all that," wrote at the site, search.wikia.com.

Wales promotes Wikia as "a new kind of search engine, which relies on human intelligence to do what algorithms cannot." He invited members of the Wiki community to help design the Wikia search engine, which he described as "an open-source alternative for web search."

He cited open source search projects as Nutch and Lucene as related efforts that can help in the development of Wikia.

Wikipedia is maintained with donations from users. The foundation filed its first financial statement 21 November, listing just over $1 million in assets for the year ended 30 June.

While Wikipedia began mostly as a resource on technology issues, it has expanded to cover more general topics. And although its populist mission is to let users edit content, it has had to correct some embarrassing inaccuracies. Most notably, it let stand for four months in 2005 a posting identifying newspaper publisher John Seigenthaler Sr. as involved in the assassinations of President John F. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy in the 1960s. It removed the posting only after Seigenthaler objected.

Wales and the Wikimedia Foundation did not respond to requests for comment.