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P2P Networks Become the Home for Distributed Search Engines

What does a search engine mean to you? For most, a search engine is a magic machine where you type a few words and it gives you what you were looking for. You will most likely recognize the primary examples.

All of these search giants are organized with a centralized, hierarchical approach. This means they crawl the internet, indexing new websites, and all of the indices they generate are stored at their data centers. This makes them the haves and you the have-nots, which puts them in an economically favorable position. Ultimately, when you want to find something, you send your search query to one of their data centers. They look through a giant dictionary of websites and send you a small set that they think fit your query. In the mean time, they add your search queries and history to a profile they keep of you. That way they can tailor ads to your personal set of search queries. They also have complete control over your perception of the internet’s content. Many of them tailor your search results to the profile of you they have generated. This means that you can work yourself into a little bubble and exclude opposing political opinions and the like from your search results.

Evolving separately is the idea of the peer to peer network. People connect their computers together in a distributed systems to pass data. In many cases, this has been illicit videos and music, or licit open-source and free programs. This solution to passing information has the interesting property where the quantity of data and speed of transfer both increase with scale. This property does not exist in centralized, hierarchical solutions. This is because as the usage of a centralized service grows, the service’s bandwidth per use shrinks.

A couple of groups have broken the well-defined search engine mold in favor of peer to peer networks. They have moved the information back to you and simply provide the means. These are called distributed search engines. When you send a search query, you send it to your peers, and they collectively send you results. This means that no one entity has complete control over your search results, no one entity can generate a complete search profile of you, and no one entity is withholding information from you.


Ned Bingham


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