The websphere is bubbling with bets on Jason Calacanis’s new “human-powered” search engine, Mahalo, which launched in alpha yesterday – what’s the point of building something that is so obviously not scaleable, what does it mean to “make judgment calls based on what’s in the best interest of [their] users” (hmm! that’s what it says in the FAQ page), is there a non-obvious business model that they’re not talking about, and so on.
I would like to make a different sort of prediction. As much as I like Hawaii and I love the smell of plumeria (frangipani) flowers in real life, I think Mahalo has chosen a hideous logo and theme for a Web site. If adoption always starts from early adopters (a tautology, I know), and beyond the geek scene (those who couldn’t care less about looks) you need some reasonably stylish people to advocate for the product and be willing to be associated with it in public, then Mahalo is off to a very wrong start, one that smells Florida kitsch and plastic shower curtains from WalMart. I am writing this from home in my 6am solitude, but I wouldn’t be caught dead trying out Mahalo in the office. So, here’s my prediction: before hitting the 10m unique visitors mark, Mahalo needs to ditch the plumeria, design a decent logo and home page theme, and get a graphic makeover by an art director with some sense of style.