Yacy Launches New Open Source Search Engine

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Peer to peer search engine may turn government and business efforts to control searches on their heads

A new, open source, peer-to-peer search engine has been launched that hopes to circumvent limitations being imposed by governments to reduce piracy world wide.

According to the Yacy website, its intention is to offer freedom of information through a free, distributed web search which is powered by the world’s users, adding that it is fully decentralised, making it impossible for anyone to censor the content of the shared index. The site also claims that search requests are never stored, monitored or evaluated for commercial purposes, thus ensuring the privacy of users.

By The People, For The People

“YaCy is a free search engine that anyone can use to build a search portal for their intranet or to help search the public internet. When contributing to the world-wide peer network, the scale of YaCy is limited only by the number of users in the world and can index billions of web pages,” according to the search engine, which currently holds about 1.4 billion documents in its index.

YaCy explains that the search engine harvests web pages with a web crawler. Documents are then parsed, indexed and the search index is stored locally. If your peer is part a peer network, then your local search index is also merged into the shared index for that network. If a search is started then the local index contributes together with a global search index from peers in the YaCy search network.

“There is a lot of free content on the Internet, such as Wikipedia, free music, data under Creative Commons licenses and documents of the Open Access movement. This free content should not only by discoverable using proprietary search engines in an increasingly monopolistic Internet infrastructure because then the monopoly holders decide what information is visible,” said Yacy of its philosophy.

It added that the benefits of using such a search engine go beyond privacy and freedom, and include user equality and being green, since, as Yacy puts it, “The operation of data centers with enormous power consumption (and sometimes their own power plants) for central web search could be removed. Distributed search requires only the computers of the searchers.”

The search engine, which has attracted the support of fringe groups like Anonymous, is run on the same principle as many of the peer-to-peer networks, like The Pirate Bay, that governments have failed to stamp out, where many private computers, or peer operators contribute. The engine currently claims more than 600 peer operators contributing each month, with about 130,000 search queries being performed with this network each day.

“There are already several search networks based on YaCy – the two major networks are the ‘freeworld’ network (which is the default public network that you join when you load the standard installation of YaCy) and the Sciencenet of the Karlsruhe Institut of Technology which focuses on scientific content. Other YaCy networks exist as TOR hidden services, local intranet services and on WiFi networks,” said the group on its website.

The search engine requires a software installation to your local machine, but according to Yacy, which gives instructions on the site,  it’s straight forward and only takes three minutes.

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