After months of talk and a few weeks of invitation-only testing, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has set January 7th as the public test launch date for its community-driven search project, Wikia Search. The project will allow users to help filter sites and rank search results, using a community model akin to that of Wikipedia.

Unlike Wikipedia, however, Wikia is a for-profit organization. Although the initial service wonít match the capabilities of the leading search engines, Wales hopes that Wikia will eventually challenge Google and other established players by offering a search service that is more transparent to end users, meaning they can see how search results are arrived at.

Itís not just the ability to produce a transparent and arguably better search engine that is important though. Wikiaís challenge lies in getting Googleís massive (and loyal) user-base to at least try the service, because most people naturally donít like change.