The launch of a search engine to rival Google is set for 7th January, according to online reports.

Details about Wikia Search, designed by the same team as the Wikipedia online encyclopedia, first appeared in the news in 2006.

However, it seems that the engine is now ready for release.

According to Wikia's creators, searchers will be able to rank search results using open-source software in order to improve the filtering of search results. They claim this will introduce transparency into the search engine process.

However Google supporters have countered this arguing that it will allow humans to manipulate the search process and it is computer-generated results are the fairest way to provide people with information.

Jimmy Wales, Wikia co-founder, announced the public launch on Christmas Eve, in an email to the Wikia mailing list, as well as stating the availability of pre-alpha invites. "We want to run over the system with help from people to complain about what is broken", he explained.

A second email followed on 31 December 2007, in which Wales added: "I am sending out a few invites each day, and we are responding rapidly to feedback. The pace of invites will accelerate in the next few days".