Everything old is new again...
I'm at the WSJ D Conference this week, and just saw Jason Calacanis launch Mahalo.com. Mahalo is intended to be a "human powered" search engine. Apparently, the top 20,000 queries to Google represent almost a third of all their traffic -- and with the rise in SEO and search-engine spam, many of the top results are of little value to their users. Mahalo believes that humans can help make search results better and has hired 40 human editors to hand-craft the results pages for the top queries. They've done 4,000 pages to date and hope to have 10,000 pages by year-end. A big, bold bet.
It also sounds similar to the old McKinely Magellan Internet Guide of 1995 (see Internet Archive's copy of the site here). From an old Magellan press release:
Magellan is the product of a marriage between McKinley's proprietary search technology and its unique editorial process. Sites in the Magellan guide are reviewed and rated by a highly informed editorial staff, with expertise in topical areas. The resulting site evaluations not only provide users with in-depth information, but also a human voice.