YaCy takes on Google with open source search engine

Good idea, stupid name


A project calling itself YaCy – pronounced "ya see" – aims to break Google’s headlock on the search market by giving away an open source search engine that can be used both online and within an intranet.

The YaCy engine is based on peer-to-peer connections rather than search queries being run thorough a central server. Users download the software and act as peers for search, ensuring that no content can be censored and no search results can be recorded and analyzed on central servers.

"Most of what we do on the Internet involves search. It's the vital link between us and the information we're looking for. For such an essential function, we cannot rely on a few large companies, and compromise our privacy in the process," said YaCy project leader Michael Christen in a statement. "YaCy's free search is the vital link between free users and free information. YaCy hands control over search back to us, the users."

Once installed, the computer sorts out its own individual search indexes and rankings, and all search requests are encrypted to ensure user privacy. Version one of the software has now been released, and so far over 1.4 billion documents have been indexed and 130,000 searches carried out. As of mid-afternoon Pacific time, the site’s web portal for search was struggling under the load of interested users, but it should be back to robust health shortly.

"We are moving away from the idea that services need to be centrally controlled. Instead, we are realising how important it is to be independent, and to create infrastructure that doesn't have a single point of failure," said Karsten Gerloff, president of the Free Software Foundation Europe. "In the future world of distributed, peer-to-peer systems, free software search engines like YaCy are a vital building block."

There won’t be any chewed fingernails at Mountain View or Redmond any time soon, in El Reg’s opinion, but YaCy is an interesting bit of software, albeit one with a lot of work still to be done. SEO poisoning, for example, will have to be addressed if the application becomes popular, and legal problems may ensue with some search terms.

Nevertheless, the call is out for developers and coders to help develop the system further, and this is just the kind of project that could get the open source community motivated. ®

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