Re-decentralizing search engines will improve access to information, says SingularityNET CEO

TORONTO — A decentralized internet, resembling the early days when no one had to rely on governmental and corporate servers, will not only improve basic search engine capabilities, but change how people access information, says Ben Goertzel, CEO of SingularityNET.

“Redecentralizing web search will radically lead to growth beyond web search, it will give us better ways of interacting with information, probably very diverse ways,” Goertzel explained during a panel discussion at AiDecentralized.

The search engine market share in Canada, as of August 2017, was dominated by Google, according to Statista. It accounted for nearly 70 per cent of all searches. Goertzel pointed to today’s advertising and its close relationship with search engines today, and said if the goal of the platform was no longer to gather people’s data to fuel ad revenues, it could lead to more creative, meaningful ways of exploring information.

Panel member Jason Ernst, CTO of RightMesh, took it a step further, and suggested that, with the help of AI, information could be delivered directly to you in a decentralized environment.

“There’s a newer class of running algorithms that are focused on the content itself. It allows you to subscribe to interesting topics and have content discovered for you based on hashtags or metadata that’s associated with specific data. So it’s not so much a search engine rather than content-centric concept that delivers the information to your device,” he explained.

The concept of a decentralized search engine, however, is not foreign territory on GitHub. A free decentralized search engine called YaCy is already taking shape. It can be used to build a search portal for someone’s intranet or help search the public internet. The platform has 1.4 billion documents in its index and more than 600 peer operators contributing to the platform each month. More than 130,000 search queries are performed on it each day, according to its website, and doesn’t store user search requests.

Social media could change dramatically, too

While they couldn’t predict whether or not a decentralized Facebook would actually work, panel members provided some insight about how it might look.

Ernst suggested blockstack as the foundation for a decentralized social network. In three years, the open-source platform has 7,000 people in its developers community with over 74,000 registered domains. To tackle fake news, Ernst said some type of incentivisation program could help.

“You could prevent people from spamming your newsfeed by attaching some value to it,” he said.

The decentralized social network uses cryptocurrency and has seen waves of new users signing up since its creation in 2011. Every day, a user’s contribution to the community is measured and rewarded with some of the network’s cryptocurrency. According to the New York-based startup’s wefunder page, Minds has 600,000 active registered users with 2 million unique monthly visitors.

The Ethereum-based Akasha platform, which according to its website, is preparing for its main network launch later this year with “hundreds of thousands” of current users,  has also shown some promise in the decentralized space.

Panel moderator Adam Gravitis, CTO of TodaQ, said it’s going to be difficult for up-and-coming decentralized projects to surpass the existing offerings from platforms such as Facebook, which has been upgrading its interface for years based on feedback from millions of users.

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Alex Coop
Alex Coop
Former Editorial Director for IT World Canada and its sister publications.

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