Grubbing around the Net

Grubbing around the Net

By Mark Chillingworth

Internet users are being asked to be the future of search engines. Rather than just logging onto a search engine and expecting it to provide the results, LookSmart wants users to act as a community by using their PCs as the basis for a search project dubbed Grub.

LookSmart's Grub project follows similar lines to the SETI@home project, in that it uses spare computer time and Internet bandwidth. Whilst SETI@home is searching for alien life, Grub is using a screen saver based application to scour the Internet and build what LookSmart hopes will be the ultimate Web guide. Distributed computing using spare computer clock cycles will catalogue Web pages by collecting raw data on sites and updating the search engine in the process.

In a statement on the Grub Web site, LookSmart describe the project as "a common goal - shaping the future of finding information on the Web." The same site claims that there are 2,218 clients searching the Web and 115,346,628 URLs have been searched in the last 24 hours.

Data collected by users PCs is sent to a central database, which will then update the LookSmart search engine.

As the application searches the Web, it provides the user with a screen saver - in the same way as SETI@home. The screen saver displays the Web pages that it is searching on the users computer screen. Glen Andrews, National Sales Manager for LookSmart's Australian branch office believes that the application has LookSmart's filtering software built into it to prevent users being presented with offensive material such as pornography or racism Web sites.

Google remains the favourite search engine on the Web at present, and rivals such as LookSmart and Yahoo! are looking for ways to remain a competitive force in the search market. Could the Grub project be the sincerest form a flattery to Google as LookSmart searches for a rival technology to Google'?

"We have different products and there is a space for both of us in the market, this is not about rivalry," said Mr Andrews.

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