Imagine you had your own copy of the entire web, and you could do with it whatever you want. (Yes, it would be very expensive, but we’ll get to that later.) You could do automated analyses and surface the results to users. For example, you could collate the “best” articles (by some definition) written on many different subjects, no matter where on the web they are published. You could then create a tool which, whenever a user is reading something about one of those subjects, suggests further reading: perhaps deeper background information, or a contrasting viewpoint, or an argument on why the thing you’re reading is full of shit.
Unfortunately, at the moment, only Google and a small number of other companies that have crawled the web have the resources to perform such analyses and build such products. Much as I believe Google try their best to be neutral, a pluralistic society requires a diversity of voices, not a filter bubble controlled by one organization. Surely there are people outside of Google who want to work on this kind of thing. Many a start-up could be founded on the basis of doing useful things with data extracted from a web crawl.
He goes on to discuss current search efforts such a Common Crawl and Wayfinder before hitting full stride with his suggestion for a distributed web search engine. Painting in the broadest of strokes, Martin makes it sound almost plausible to contemplate such an effort.
While conceding the technological issues would be many, it is contended that the payoff would be immense, but in ways we won’t know until it is available. I suspect Martin is right but if so, then we should be able to see a similar impact from Common Crawl. Yes?
Not to rain on a parade I would like to join, but extracting value from a web crawl like Common Crawl is not a guaranteed thing. A more complete crawl of the web only multiplies those problems, it doesn’t make them easier to solve.
On the whole I think the idea of a distributed crawl of the web is a great idea, but while that develops, we best hone our skills at extracting value from the partial crawls that already exist.