2011-02-20

Pirate Software, week 7: Seeks

Ten years ago I collected bookmarks to everything interesting I found on the net. Today I don't, because I can in most cases find it again by just googling it up. But our dependency upon search is quite scary. The net is so vast that it is hard for us to tell if Google is doing a good job, or sending us to the wrong pages. And it is a bit scary that Google saves all our searches. Go here and have a look at your own searches.

If we translated the situation to meat-space, what if you always went to the same guy every time you had a question, and what about the idea of him writing down every question you ever asked?

So, really, there are two issues here:
  1. Is Google giving us the right answers?
  2. How much is our privacy worth?
The first question could be answered, perhaps, by some kind of research, of which I am not capable. There are true alternatives to Google, as you know, but why would we trust the alternatives more than Google? Could we do it ourselves? Well, yes, perhaps. I have found one such effort, YaCy, which is a program you install on your own computer. You can send it off spidering the web for you, but the search results from your computer alone can't do the web justice, of course. Google has, after all, hundreds of thousands of computers at hand for search. So what YaCy does when you search for "pirate party usa" is to connect through peer-to-peer with other YaCy users and assemble the search result from all those peers. So, you might wonder, does it work? Unfortunately, no. My experience is that the results don't reflect what you'd hope for. Your experience might differ, so try it out in case you're interested.

What about privacy, not having all your searches saved by others? There are several ways you can go here:
  • You can tell Google not to save your searches. But do you trust them not to? I think I do, but I'd rather not depend on it.
  • You can switch to one of the proxy search engines out there that explicitly claim they don't track your searches, such as Duck Duck Go, Ixquick or Scroogle. I haven't tried them much, but they seems to work fine. If you ask me, go for the Duck!
  • You could install a proxy search engine on your own machine, such as Seeks. It does share your searches, but anonymously, and only with other machines who have also installed Seeks. In that way it resembles YaCy, but does a much better job. You can try it out here.
    I have currently chosen the Seeks project as my choice for search. Since it is open source I can potentially inspect the source and make up my own mind as to its claims for what it does. The project is very ambitious, as they plan to in the future build its own search index. It may never get that far, but it is currently good enough for me. I might change to something else later, which is the good thing about search - simple to replace.
    
    
    
    

    8 comments:

    1. Correction: The seeks project has told me the p2p part has not been turned on yet.

      ReplyDelete
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