14 research and computing centers in 7 EU countries jointly launched the Open Web Search Project (OpenWebSearch) to build an open infrastructure for web search in the EU. The European Commission has now approved €8.5 million in financing for the project.

This project will promote the development of digital sovereignty in Europe and promote the establishment of a people-centred and open search engine market. OpenWebSearch’s home page states that while web search is the backbone of the EU’s digital economy, it is currently dominated by big technology companies. Therefore, as information as a public good, it needs to have free, fair and transparent access. The current imbalance in the search engine market jeopardizes democracy and limits the innovative potential of European research and the economy.

Over the next three years, researchers will develop core EuropeanOpen Web Index (OWI), as the infrastructure for the new Internet search in Europe. In addition, the project will lay the foundation for an open and scalable European Open Web Search and Analysis Infrastructure (OWSAI) based on European values, principles, legislation and standards, with the following objectives:

  1. Develop a core set of search, discovery and analysis services to create, maintain and leverage OWI
  2. New search paradigms to develop relevant search engine verticals and demonstrate their impact
  3. Build a European network of HPC infrastructure, research and business organisations to pilot OWSAI in line with European values, principles, legislation, ethics and standards
  4. Improve the ecology around OWI

Therefore, OpenWebSearch’s indexing will be separate from the search engine, and the expensive process of creating the index can be done on a large cluster, while the search engine can be performed locally. Through the Open-Web-Search Engine Hub, anyone can share their search engine specifications and precomputed regularly updated indexes. The ultimate goal is to create a human-centric search without privacy concerns.

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