The YaCy project is releasing version 1.0 of its peer-to-peer Free Software search engine, according to a news report posted today by the Free Software Foundation Europe. The software takes a radically new approach to search. YaCy does not use a central server, but compiles its search results from a network of independent peers, which currently stands at over 600 persons. In such a distributed network, no single entity decides what gets listed, or in which order results appear.
The YaCy search engine runs on each user’s own computer. Search terms are encrypted before they leave the user and the user’s computer. Unlike conventional search engines, YaCy is designed to protect users’ privacy. A user’s computer creates its individual search indices and rankings so that results better match what the user is looking for over time. YaCy also makes it easy to create a customised search portal with a few clicks.
“Most of what we do on the internet involves search. It’s the vital link between us and the information we’re looking for. For such an essential function, we cannot rely on a few large companies, and compromise our privacy in the process,” says Michael Christen, YaCy’s project leader. “YaCy’s free search is the vital link between free users and free information. YaCy hands control over search back to us, the users.”
Each YaCy user is part of a large search network. YaCy is already in use on websites such as sciencenet.kit.edu, yacy.geocaching-portal.com and fsfe.org to provide a site-wide search function that respects users’ privacy. It contains a peer-to-peer network protocol to exchange search indices with other YaCy search engines.
“We are moving away from the idea that services need to be centrally controlled. Instead, we are realising how important it is to be independent, and to create infrastructure that doesn’t have a single point of failure,” says Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe. “In the future world of distributed, peer-to-peer systems, Free Software search engines like YaCy are a vital building block.”
Everyone can try out the search engine at http://search.yacy.net/. Users can become part of YaCy’s network by installing the software on their own computers. YaCy is Free Software, so anyone can use, study, share and improve it. It is currently available for GNU/Linux, Windows and MacOS. The project is also looking for developers and other contributors.