What is a Decentralized Search Engine and How Does it Work?

Search engines are concept that most people in developed nations are familiar with. There are many search engines companies, some of which are quite famous. For example, there is Google, Yahoo, and Bing. There are also slightly lesser known search engines such as Ask.com and Ecosia.org.

Mainstream, standard search engines have a single point of control and are run by the search engine companies. In other words, they are centralized. A decentralized search engine is a search engine that performs the same basic function of a search engine, but without a single point of control. The control is distributed across a wide network, hence the name “decentralized” search engine.

Background of Decentralized Search Engines

The concept of decentralized search engines has been around for a decade or two. However, decentralized search engines have not exploded in popularity to date. This is largely because many people have been content with mainstream, centralized search engines.

But, there are several factors which are contributing to a potential rise in the popularity of search engines. The first is the rise of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin. Cryptocurrencies are decentralized, digital currencies which run on blockchains (open-source public ledgers). The success of decentralized currencies is creating interest in other decentralized and cryptographic assets; search engines are one example.

There are a number of decentralized, peer-to-peer search engines that have either been proposed or that have actually been built. These search engines include Infrasearch, Opencola, YaCy, FAROO, and others. The goal of these decentralized search engines is to create an alternative search engine option that is preferable to centralized search engines for many people.

How Do Decentralized Search Engines Work?

Although decentralized search engines perform the same basic function as centralized ones, the way that they operate is much different. With a centralized search engine, you perform searches for topics that you are interested in, and then the search engine company gets to keep the data that is associated with your searches. This can be used for marketing purposes, and it is stored on their servers.

With a decentralized search engine, no search engine company owns your data or even has access to your search information. In fact, all of this data is encrypted and stored on a blockchain. Instead of a search engine company owning this data, users own it, and they control access to it with a private key.

If users decide to share their private keys with companies, then these companies can access the data and market to the user based on that information. However, if users do not decide to share the data, then companies will not be able to access it and use it to create marketing schemes.

As time goes on, the searches that a user makes will shape his or her online identify and buyer persona. This information will become increasingly desirable to businesses who want to advertise to users on the decentralized search engines.

Benefits of Decentralized Search Engines?

One benefit of decentralized search engines is that they are exponentially more private than centralized search engines. This is because there is not one company who controls all of the search data and can sell it to retailers or marketing companies as it sees fit. So this means that users will have a much higher degree of control over the information that is associated with their search activity.

Another important benefit of decentralized search engines is that users may actually be able to make money off of them. This is because if users are in control of their own search data, then they can sell this data to merchants and marketing companies instead of having it sold by centralized search engine companies. This could result in a complete paradigm shift for the search engine industry.

There is already one decentralized search engine that is using this model. The name of this search engine is BitClave, and it’s program called BitClave’s Active Search Ecosystem (BASE), pays users for relevant searches. The currency that BitClave users who participate in BASE get paid in is a digital currency that is operated by BitClave called CAT, which stands for Consumer Activity Tokens. Many retailers on the Bitclave search network accept these tokens and will take them as payment for goods.

Decentralized search engines have the power to prevent monopolies being formed in the digital advertising and search engine space. Preventing monopolies is generally good for the economy because it prevents one or two powerhouse companies from being able to control industries and prices associated with those industries. So, decentralized search engines can seriously disrupt the search engine space.

What Are The Implications of Decentralized Search Engines?

If search engines follow in the path of decentralized currencies, then it could really start a major trend of decentralization. That is to say that more and more key types of data or value could be stored increasingly by individuals through a blockchain, and less and less by gigantic corporations.

This could put significantly more power and control in the hands of individuals. However, at the current time, decentralization through blockchain technology is still really in its infancy. In fact, it is estimated that less than one percent of the U.S. population owns Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency. The percent using decentralized search engines is likely even less than that. However, because they are so new, data for this is actually hard to find.

If decentralized search engines become more popular, there is actually a chance that there may be an increasing fusion between decentralized search engines and cryptocurrencies. This is because such search engines can make it easier to identify decentralized apps (Dapps) and other programs or companies which use blockchain technology.

For example, one search engine, called Weipoint, was just launched by a former Coinbase engineer named Antonio Juliano. This search engine makes it easy for searchers to find Dapps that use ethereum-based smart contracts and that run on a blockchain. This search engine could be the first of many that are based around cryptocurrencies and smart contracts.

Challenges for Decentralized Search Engines

For starters, if decentralized search engines get large enough, then it is possible that the main centralized search engine companies could view them as a threat and start to try to compete with them more. However, Google still owns 63.9 percent of the search market, with Yahoo and Bing owning the bulk of the rest. So, decentralized search engines have a long way to go before they become a serious threat to mainstream, centralized search.

Another challenge for decentralized search engines is that they may be difficult for the average person to understand how to use at first. This is because people have become extremely reliant upon and used to using Google, Yahoo, and Bing for the majority of their searches. So, it may take time for people to adjust to new search engines, and for the concept of decentralized search engines to take hold.

However, even if decentralized search engines do take some time to win over large portions of the mainstream population, they still might do so. It is relevant to consider that at one point in time many people would have suggested that it would be difficult for centralized search engines to overtake the Yellow Pages for searches. However, now there is an entire generation that may not even know what the Yellow Pages are because they have essentially been replaced by search engines.

Working out all of the technology is another challenge that decentralized search engines will have to face. This can be especially tricky because decentralized search engines do not have server farms for recording and storing data like many normal search engine companies do. So, this presents a distinct challenge and will require a wave of innovation in order for the tech to become optimal. However, there have been may other waves of tech innovation that have been successful, so this wave could also be successful.

Will Decentralized Search Engines Become Popular?

There are several reasons why there is a distinct possibility that decentralized search engines could become popular. The first and most obvious is because they dramatically increase privacy. The second is because they offer the potential for people to get paid just by searching. Finally, they give people much greater control over their data.

So, all of these things could potentially contribute to an increase in popularity. The fact that people can get paid for searching alone could create an entire new income stream for many people, and could go a long way towards boosting popularity of decentralized search engines.

Also, decentralization as an idea is growing in popularity seemingly every day because of cryptocurrencies. So, yes there is at least a significant chance that decentralized search engines could become popular at some point in the future.

Final Thoughts

The invention of the internet has already decentralized things that were once centralized. For example, Youtube has decentralized video content and made it possible for anyone to broadcast their own movies, shows, or other videos and Ebay has made it possible for anyone to run their own auctions.

However, ironically, the growth of the internet led to the centralization of search engines. Now, just a few search engine companies control the vast majority of the search engine market. While sites such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo are extremely important and all help society in key ways, they also have concentrated a lot of the power that is associated with internet searches.

Decentralized search engines would distribute a lot of this power, and put a lot more of it back in the hands of the users. Many people view this as a highly desirable situation, especially if users can make money by performing searches.

Because of the growing popularity of decentralization as a concept applied to internet protocols, it is very possible the decentralized search engines could soon become a lot more widely used. If this happens, then there is a good chance that there could be a battle for market share between centralized search engines and decentralized search engines, like the one currently happening between centralized currencies and decentralized cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

This battle could get very intense, and regardless of what happens, it will likely lead to new developments in technology that can be used for a variety of purposes. So, hopefully, the results will be positive either way.