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People feel lost when their connection to the internet is cut. All of a sudden, they cannot search for some reference or quickly look up something online. At the other end, hundreds of millions of servers are 'always on', awaiting the user to come online. Of course, this is neither very resilient nor economic. And it is also not necessary. In the 60s, computers used to occupy a large room. Nowadays, with smartphones, they fit in your hand. A complete copy of the Web (10 PB) already fits on 100 SSDs of 100 TB occupying a volume similar to an original IBM PC. A partial copy of the Web optimised for a single person will thus soon fit on a smartphone.

Mynij believes that Web search will eventually run offline for legal, technical and economic rationale. This is why it is building a general purpose Web search engine that runs offline and fits into a smartphone. It can provide fast results with better accuracy than online search engines. It protects privacy and freedom of expression against recent forms of digital censorship. It reduces the cost of online advertising for small businesses. It brings search algorithms and information presentation under end-user control. And you control its availability: as long as you have a copy and a working device, it can work.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

We have come to associate search and discovery of digital content with online search engines. Somewhere on the planet there is an army of all-knowing machines waiting day and night for our inquiries, ready to point us to wherever we need to be - if we ask them nicely. However, this tremendous luxury comes with quite a heavy real-time dependency for internet users: it requires us to have an active connection to the internet whenever we need to find something. As our use of the internet has become more nomadic over the years due to the rise of mobile phones, there are in fact many situations that we find ourselves in where our use of the internet is very restricted or even temporarily cut off. Like when you are on a train, in a busy city centre where the wifi is completely saturated, in a remote area with limited coverage, or when you've ran out of your monthly mobile data plan. Or something more serious, when the network is offline for a longer time due to a cascading network failure or cyberattack.

All of a sudden, we are at a loss. It feels we are thrown back in time. We cannot find anything anymore outside of the files and documents we have stored on our devices. Our on-line search engines are all out of reach and of no use to us. Our many questions will have to wait: there is nothing we can do until we get back online. Such a real-time dependency on a critical resource is not only annoying for users (and sometimes downright disadvantageous when you really need to look up something like a manual or an important reference document). It is also not necessary. Devices like the smartphone in your pocket have such massive storage capacity that you can easily use them to store on-line data of interest, so you can search through it off-line later. This is why Mynij is creating a search engine that can fit on a smartphone, providing accurate results whether on-line or off-line. Not only does this make search more functional and resilient, because the content you search is local and already tailored to your interest, it can even be quicker to use.

Moving search and discovery offline can also give the user more control over their privacy and circumvent forms of online censorship. Because the user stores the information that will be searched themselves, they do not have to worry anymore about some third party tracking every search query (or limiting what sites they can and cannot go through). Search and discovery in this sense works better, is more user-centric and less dependent on third parties and commercial service providers.

Run by Mynij

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This project was funded through the NGI0 Discovery Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825322. Applications are still open, you can apply today.