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Relic

Search Engines Should Be a Public Utility

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Posted (edited)

I agree.

Google is a mostly useless add result provider now and is way too powerful. They are crushing small local shops that sell online and restaurants that have their own delivery service among other things.

People like us know that there are other search engine options but we are a small minority and it does not help that Bing is garbage. 

Edited by Luzifer's right hand

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I'd suggest converting it into a database with search API that can be freely used by any website, but isn't directly accessible to end users. That would help with privacy concerns, since the database would only know which search site is sending the queries, with no way to link it to a specific individual. Unless the specific search site chooses to include a consistent user id or geographical location with the queries - I'd expect some would prioritise privacy, others more personalised results.

Put it under the control of the UN or some other international body.

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Or the UN or some non-profit organizaton can go ahead and fund a search engine project that everyone can use for search instead?

I'm not opposed to breaking up Google and other holders of the keys of search, but I'm not sure about rendering them into public utilities as the right course.

State run internet services work pretty well in China, I guess, but I don't think that's the model people want to emulate.

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11 minutes ago, Ran said:

Or the UN or some non-profit organizaton can go ahead and fund a search engine project that everyone can use for search instead?

I'm not opposed to breaking up Google and other holders of the keys of search, but I'm not sure about rendering them into public utilities as the right course.

State run internet services work pretty well in China, I guess, but I don't think that's the model people want to emulate.

Shit, I dunno, maybe we need that plus their army of censors to get rid of QAnon

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I may be confused about the assertion, but shouldn't internet access be a public utility first?  Because in my definition of the term it's not yet.  Or is it just that there's no real distinction between internet access and search engines?

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It's not entirely obvious how to make this work better than it currently does. The fundamental problem is that search needs all of the scale it can get and yet it is unlike utilities in that the best answers queries from different localities can often be different, either because of legal considerations or simply because people are looking for different things with identical queries.

What exactly is the proposal? Google was, to some extent, already broken up into the various Alphabet companies so that self-driving cars and internet providing balloons are not directly connected with search. One can break up Alphabet altogether, but it's not obvious why one should do this rather than breaking up, say, Amazon or Apple or Facebook. Do you want to break up all of them?

Breaking away search from ads can also be done, but in that case somebody will have to pay for search. If you look at Baidu (China's main alternative to Google), it also derives revenue from advertisements. The reason that Google and Baidu have relatively few competitors is that search infrastructure is expensive to build and expensive to maintain so funding it without ads will be a pretty large problem.

In short, it's easy to point out what is wrong with search now, but much harder to come up with a viable replacement.

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The ad part is easy to stop. Just install a PiHole and/or an adblocker of your choice. Profiling can be circumvented too - with some effort.

What concerns me is that Google or their algorithms can decide what to show to me. But tbh, I assume that some ranking and filtering of the queries has to be done to provide meaningful answers. Is there any actor you would trust?

 

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1 hour ago, kiko said:

The ad part is easy to stop. Just install a PiHole and/or an adblocker of your choice. Profiling can be circumvented too - with some effort.

Pretty much. There are good tools for that.

1 hour ago, kiko said:

What concerns me is that Google or their algorithms can decide what to show to me. But tbh, I assume that some ranking and filtering of the queries has to be done to provide meaningful answers. Is there any actor you would trust?

Well, there has been always filtering however Google at its beginnings put a lot of effort in giving the answers that were most relevant in an objective way and it was the basis of its success. I'm less sure of that right now. Most of the other search engines however have still a way to go before providing competitive results.

It should be relatively easy to have a browser extension that search simultaneously across several engines and then provide the best results based on some sort of consensus among them.

In case you don't want to use google anymore. There are alternatives, good and less good. Some of them

https://searx.prvcy.eu/

https://swisscows.com/

https://metager.org/ (which apparently does multi-searching)

https://www.qwant.com/

https://duckduckgo.com/

https://search.yahoo.com/

https://www.bing.com/

The last two are not very privacy conscious. 

I think that open, public projects (like wikipedia) can contribute more than governmental or international agreed projects.

This year personal project is btw getting rid of my dependence of tech giants, including amazon, google, facebook, etc,  to the extend of possible. I still use android, but I'll keep an eye of any project that is more open and privacy aware than that (not apple ofc). I intend to donate money to some of them.

 

 

 

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Most public utilities are run by private business anyway, so I feel like you're making two separate points here. Nothing about making searching a public utility would inherently mean google can't run it. If what you're saying is that google should be publically owned, that has problems all of its own, and even if you solved the technical ones I don't think any state is any more trustworthy than google.
 



 

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On 1/8/2021 at 12:46 PM, Relic said:

Google needs to be broken up. I can give my reasons, if anyone wants to hear them. 

Okay make your case.

Eta: Am interested because I'm not clear why Google should be broken up? I'm basically a clean slate on this issue, although I'm aware Sen. Warren has said she thinks it may be necessary.

Edited by DireWolfSpirit

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