“Does it always have to be Google or Bing? With the OpenWebSearch project, the EU wants to protect its sovereignty on the Internet. The goal is a freely accessible web directory that feeds diverse search engines and language models and should trigger a boom in new web services.

Arne Grävemeyer reports in the 9/2023 issue of c’t about the openwebsearch.eu project, in which the Open Search Foundation is significantly involved. The article takes a detailed look at the project, its background and future development. Michael Granitzer (University of Passau, OSF and project lead of openwebsearch.eu), Stefan Voigt (Open Search Foundation, DLR), Christian Gütl (Graz University of Technology) and Phil Höfer (SuMa e.V./MetaGer) have their say.

“But what could you do with a large web index if it were freely available to the public? One could build alternative search engines or specialised search services according to selected topics. Users would have free choice and could better protect their private user profiles. Linguists could use the data pool of a large web index to follow how our language is developing, and sociologists could observe how we interact with each other in the social media. Web services could use it to look for clues to incipient pandemics or other catastrophic events and thus build an early warning system.”

“We are not a European Google,” says Michael Granitzer, Chair of Data Science at the University of Passau, who is coordinating the OpenWebSearch project. He says the project is not about building a large search engine, but much more fundamentally about establishing an infrastructure that search engines and other services can later work with. Google’s size is certainly out of reach at the beginning. “It will be more like Wikipedia, which started with a small core compared to large publishers and then grew continuously.”

“Even at the start of the project, and thus before the hype around ChatGPT, the partners considered the Open Web Index, with its focus on European content and languages, as a data pool for specialised language models. New search engines could also immediately use these models as an interface for search queries. “Users are usually not looking for links, but for answers to their questions or even suggested solutions,” says Gütl. That speaks for the use of chatbots, he says.”

“In terms of Europe’s digital sovereignty, the Open Web Index can certainly be seen as a critical infrastructure. The project partners hope that it will create transparent structures on the web. The envisaged European web index promises more plurality and hopefully benefits above all those who simply provide the best and most reliable information on their websites.”

Online version of the article (paywall) at heise.de

Links to Open Web Search, compiled by c’t: ct.de/y6sw

“Google dominates internet search, now an EU project is trying to build an alternative with ‘European values’. Can it succeed?” – The SZ reported on our EU project OpenWebSearch.eu in the business section. Mirjam Hauck spoke with Michael Granitzer about it. He researches and teaches at the University of Passau and heads the 8.5 million euro project.

“We can’t compete with Google,” Granitzer says, dampening expectations. It is difficult to displace the top dogs. And the budget of 8.5 million euros is “a drop in the ocean”. By way of comparison: Microsoft has invested ten billion dollars in the AI company OpenAI and its bot Chat-GPT alone. That is about 1200 times the budget of the EU project.”

The goal of Open Web Search is to eventually cover 50 to 60 percent of the websites that Google also has in its index. That would be about 500 to 600 billion web pages. Because, as Michael Granitzer explains it: “More than 50 percent is a critical mass. If it works with that, you can also cover 100 per cent with more computer resources.”

Granitzer does not believe that they are too late with the OWI. “It’s not about building a competitor to Google or Microsoft, but first about making web data more easily accessible,” says the professor. This data could also be used to train CI models. In addition, “we simply have to make progress on this topic in Europe”.

For Granitzer, his project is also about whether a different advertising market and thus different business models are possible than those dominated by Google. If users had several search engines to choose from, there would be no such problems, says Granitzer. “Oligopolies or monopolies have never been drivers of innovation.” An example: “Currently, we are limited to seeing a list of ten links, of which we look at three, and there is a lot of advertising, which is increasing. I’m already asking myself the question: is this really web search?”


Online Version of the article at sueddeutsche.de (German, Paywall)

“With a market share of over 90 percent, Google is regularly the number one search engine in Europe. Since 2004, “googling” has been officially listed as a verb in the dictionary and stands for searching or researching on the Internet with the application of the subsidiary of the US umbrella company Alphabet. As the gateway for a large number of Europeans and citizens worldwide, Google not only opens up information, but also helps determine their view of the Internet and the things depicted on it.” …

The full blog article at California18 can be found here: https://california18.com/missing-link-open-web-index-to-make-europe-independent-in-searching/9087352023/

Shania Ender from Human Facts introduces the Open Search Foundation and its goals and explains why we all should leave our own comfort zone in order to give smaller search engines a chance – too, “even if that means that our search no longer yields almost a billion results or takes longer than 0.8 seconds.”

Read the full article on the Human Facts website.

“In Europe, a group called the Open Search Foundation has proposed a plan to create a common internet index that can underpin many European search engines.”

Eine ausführliche Analyse über die Ziele und Organisation der Open Search Foundation und Kommentare zum Whitepaper finden sich auf Dragotin’s Blog. Er endet mit einem sicherlich zutreffenden Ausblick: “Building a lasting, productive and well established community will be the vital question for the whole project in my opinion. Offering a great idea, which this initiative is without question, will not be enough to motivate people to participate long term.”

In diesem Sinne: Wie wäre es mit einer Mitarbeit bei einer der osf-Fachgruppen? Wir freuen uns über aktive Mitstreiter:innen!

Hier geht’s zum Artikel: https://dragotin.wordpress.com/2020/06/14/open-search-foundation/