Open Source Search to Compete with Google

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The man who tore down the ivory towers of academia with an encyclopedia that could be edited by anyone plans to take a similar approach to searches with a new open-source search tool that he hopes will directly challenge Google. Jimmy Wales announced on Friday that his company Wikia is working on an open source search client that uses individual computers to index the Internet.

The new search project is based on Grub, an existing platform for distributed search that Wikia purchased and turned open source. The intent is for searchers download the Grub client, which allows users’ computers to help index the Internet when their connections and processing power aren’t being fully used. Traditionally, this role is performed by centralized computers owned by the company building the search engine.

Wales said at Friday’s O’Reilly Open Source Convention that he hoped “to free the judgment of information from invisible rules inside an algorithmic black box,” referring to the highly guarded search algorithms of Google and other search companies. In the same vein, Grub’s Web site tells users, “Search is part of the fundamental infrastructure of the Internet. And, it is currently broken.” It goes on to blame lack of freedom, community, accountability and transparency in existing search engines.

The Grub client is currently available for download but there isn’t yet an easy-to-use frontend for the search. Wales hopes to have that wrapped up by the year’s end, with further refinements to come with further adoption.