In this article, I’m going to discuss in detail what is YaCy and why it is important? But, before I get to that, let me first try to explain something to you. One thing I’ve noticed in internet users (including myself) is that we’re not conscious of who is using our data and how. What benefit do we get by giving up on our information and privacy?
I mean if you really think on it convenience seems to the only benefit that comes out of today’s mass data collection of internet users. Search engines are a part of this ongoing privacy war, our data is collected by them to sell targeted kind of ads tailored to our search history at a higher price than they could for random ads.
They can do this because there is a certain kind of certainty when estimating clicks on an ad targeted to an individual. These search engines doesn’t necessarily have to raise the cost of the ads, they just have to use this targeted data and they still win. A better targeted ad will bring more clicks. More clicks means the company who bought the ad has to pay more.
If they don’t target the ads, then the no. of clicks wouldn’t be the same which will automatically translate into less money. That is how it all began. These search engines needed money to pay for the servers they used so they sold ads. Once they saw the dollars pouring in, they tracked search history to better target the ads.
Top data collecting search engines can fine tune results to the point of delivering age, gender and personal interest specific ads directly to your computer screen. Much of Google’s massive income is generated through the use of targeted ads created by the data they collect.
The companies buying the ads do not mind paying more because they get more clicks. More clicks mean more visitors to their site. More visitors mean more sales and money. There wasn’t any outrage when all this tracking began because the people to notice it first had enjoyed the change. Those that did not kept searching without a clue.
This is the centralized model for the sites and online tools we use from day to day. The providers have bills and employees to pay so money is a necessity. Asking people used to using the service for free to pay for the same would almost kill these search giants. It is much smoother for them to track, log, and use our data to make the dollars they need.
What Is YaCy?
YaCy is an open source community based search engine that uses the decentralized peer-to-peer model. The source code is written in Java, distributed on several hundred computers, the so-called YaCy peers. When you become a YaCy-peer, you crawl the web just like the big players, analyze and index the results, and save the indexed results into a common database (the so-called “index”), which is shared with other YaCy-peers using P2P network principles, thus improving the speed and coverage of YaCy.
This open source search engine features no ads and is free to use. YaCy can do this because as mentioned above, it uses the decentralized peer-to-peer model (or P2P), which refers to computer networks that use a distributed architecture. This means that all computers or devices that are part of such a system share the tasks between them. Since you become one of the many servers on the network, so YaCy do not have to pay any server bill and hence no ads. They also do not have to pay anyone to keep the search engine running because there is no single point of failure.
YaCy is not the only distributed search engine out there, there are a few others too, such as InfraSearch, Opencola, and FAROO. But, unlike the others all of whom started in the early 2000s, YaCy was created by Michael Christen at the end of 2003. Each of these search engines has a similar structure to YaCy. All rely on the nodes to crawl, mine, and query information to display to the users.
With YaCy there is a web interface but unlike Google, Bing, or Duck Duck Go, you can’t just type in yacy.net and look up your question. If you visit their official site you’ll find a download for all the three operating systems; Windows, Mac, and Linux. Once you have the file all you need to do is decompress the directory and run the script.
There is no install to use YaCy!
After you run the script, the YaCy search page will appear in your Google Chrome (or whatever is your default web browser). From there you can search as you would on any well-known search engines. Some searches will take more time to complete than others. This all depends on how often the phrase gets a request, far as I can tell.
There is also possibility that you my run into searches with little or no results. This was more common in the earlier days but with the increase in users & nodes over time has made the problem somewhat rare. Back in the day it was a common issue especially if you were searching for something obscure. But, over the course of years, YaCy has run in some form picking up more data to serve to its users.
More than websites
This data is not information on what you are searching for but what the internet has to offer you. YaCy peers have indexed billions of documents including html docs (websites), images, and any other type of data that can be stored on a web server. When searching you may even come across files that the search giants won’t show.
One of the primary reasons why people opt for YaCy is that it will not censor data because it does not have to. The search giants may have to remove a result due to some government forcing them to do so. These centralized sources must remove the data or risk fines (and by an extension even a shutdown).
This is not much of an issue for YaCy, as mentioned above; it follows a decentralized peer-to-peer model, meaning there is no organization to strong arm and get results taken offline. At best the government can force the site where people download the program offline. This won’t stop it because there are already numerous people with a copy. The YaCy script will end up on piratebay or other file sharing platforms in less than a day’s time if needed.