The advent of Ethereum has made it possible to decentralize user assets on the blockchain. Starting with fungible tokens like cryptocurrencies, this rally has been successfully joined by non-fungible assets such as diamonds, real estates, and even entire businesses.
With everything going decentralized, a search engine is another domain that is also adopting blockchain.
But what’s the need? Do we really require a decentralized search engine? We are doing pretty well with Google, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Yandex, and many others. Google has been the favorite choice when it comes to searching any content online. Handling over 40,000 search queries every second on average, it receives about 90% of the search engine market traffic. Each of our search results is almost always followed by suggested pages from Google Ads advertiser. As a large portion of Google’s revenue comes from advertising, Google Search tries to provide us with the best service in return for incentives from these advertisements.
In order to generate larger revenues, advanced algorithms of Google search engine try to display the most relevant ads to us. They track our surfing behavior, create browsing profiles for us, and sell this data to the highest bidder. The big giants holding this data can do whatever with information we entrust to it. We are no longer custodians of our own data.
Rise of Blockchain-Based Decentralized Search Engines
The privacy concern arising from this business model is an important factor for the transition to a decentralized approach to search engines. Instead of relying on centralized indexing and ranking systems adopted by major search engine players, a distributed search engine relies on a network of computers communicating in a peer-to-peer fashion. The blockchain manages and records all the ranking and search data in encrypted form.
Like any blockchain application, there is no central server. The results of each search are contributed by the community distributed across the network. Being an anonymous system, blockchain technology preserves user identity. Each user owns their data reducing the risk of any privacy breach.
Blockchain maintains all search-related information. User can access their own information using a unique private key. Each user controls the ownership of data by willingly sharing information with whoever they choose and can get rewards in return. No other party can access it.
The extent of results of any search in a traditional search engine is controlled by corporate or government policies. A search engine censors the results in favor of higher-paying content and shoves the rest results in the depths of the following search results. Decentralized search engines are uncensored and show users complete results free of any targeted adverts and eavesdropping.
Incentives in Decentralized Search Engines
The traditional search engines work on a highly monetary incentivized architecture to provide free, fast, and most accurate results for user queries. Whereas their decentralized counterparts based on blockchain are mostly driven by crypto tokens. Nodes provide storage and compute resources. They are rewarded in tokens to maintain the network. Users are also awarded tokens for use of these search engines.
Available Options in the Decentralized Space
This privacy-centric search engine developed in 2020, is gaining a lot of commotion with its public launch today. Its native token PRE maintains the governance on the network. Users volunteer to run Presearch nodes in payment of PRE tokens. For every search query, sent to a node gateway server that anonymizes the searcher by removing any tracking information like IP address. The gateway then selects an available Presearch node maintained by volunteers and sends the anonymized search query to the node. This node distributes the search to available search indexes, plus a number of other resources such as external search engines, APIs, and databases. Results are returned to the gateway. PRE tokens are used to reward this Presearch node. These results are then built into a search user experience and sent to the searcher’s web browser.
Presearch has made advertising possible by keyword staking. It allows businesses to capture search traffic at no or low costs. Advertisers can stake PRE tokens against exact keywords and receive free traffic on this keyword as long as the stake is maintained. Whenever a user issues a query, the highest stake on the keyword gets the top spot in the search results.
Though far from the traditional search engine’s user experience, this project aims to bring new features to improve its outreach. It is working on refreshed autocomplete, analytics around keywords stacked. To provide better privacy for users, it also aims to allow users to stake against advertising messages to reduce their reach.
Even with more than 10M+ searches a month, Presearch is yet to make an impact in the commercial web search business.
Developed and maintained by BitClave in 2018, it is one of the world’s first crypto-focused search engines. It provides results about all crypto information and news without any filter from trusted and relevant websites searching Telegram channels and Reddit. It can be used to get information about cryptocurrencies, ICOs, blockchain projects, founders, exchanges, and all things about crypto, at once place.
Currently optimized for crypto content, it is working to roll out a search engine other than just crypto in the next phase.
It is a cross-blockchain search engine to index and rank Dapps, smart contracts, and data. Launched in 2018, it follows a unique Proof of Devotion model for consensus. To support search engine functionality, Nebulas is using its innovative and open-source algorithms to rank user addresses, smart contracts, dApps, and other financial entities based on liquidity, propagation of users’ assets, and interactivity between users.
Launched in 2020, Blockscan is made by developers of popular Ethereum explorer, Etherscan. It is a decentralized search engine for decentralized websites hosted on IPFS. Currently, it is working with a directory of 150 known websites backed by 3 popular blockchain domains – .eth, .crypto, and .zil.
To perform a search along with the websites, it hashes each webpage and stores it on multiple nodes supporting its architecture.
With many projects in early-stage development, a fully blockchain-based search engine is still a long way to go. But regular privacy leakages, data breaches, and omnipresent advertisements in traditional search engine space are leading to increased adoption of their decentralized alternatives.