There is a wave of interest in new ways to discover content online and that includes using Web3 architectures like digital ledgers and decentralization to reshape the search landscape. Participants – each with their own variation on the theme – include Presearch, Timpi, Kinic and Kin, just to name a few Web3-enabled examples. But the big question is can blockchain-based search engines beat Google?
Google has dominated the search engine landscape for years and is proving impossible to displace. Most recently, Neeva shut down its answer engine because it failed to convince enough subscribers to sign up. The big challenge – according to the statement of Neeva co-founders Sridhar Ramaswamy (ex-SVP of Ads at Google) and Vivek Raghunathan (ex-VP of Monetization at YouTube) – was not building a capable search engine, but getting users to change service.
Muscle memory is strong and well-known content discovery tools are deeply embedded in the ecosystems used by millions of internet users. But that’s not to say that blockchain-based search engines don’t offer unique benefits. Web3 – the so-called next-generation Internet – has the potential to shift the balance of power away from tech giants like Google, Microsoft and other vendors.
Benefits of Blockchain-Based Search Engines
These days, changes in search algorithms can make or break websites, and site owners have to guess at what’s going on behind the scenes. SEO tools can provide some insight, but much better if search ranking schemes were open and decentralized, putting power back in the hands of users who could vote for pages that met their needs and flag content for review.
And this highlights some of the transparency that Web3 offers (along with security and privacy, if needed). “If it’s decentralized, anyone can check the source code,” Wyatt Benno, co-founder of Kinic — a search engine built on the Internet Computer Protocol (ICP) — told TechHQ.
Kinic won the Blue Sky category of the Supernova Internet Computer Global Hackathon, which put the blockchain-based search engine project in the crosshairs of VC heavyweight A16Z and other partners involved in the event. And some of the smart features of Web3 search include zero-knowledge machine learning (ZKML).
There are clear steps to take to make ZKML more practical. An optimized ZKVM for the ZKML use case will certainly allow for faster iterations and experiments.
No idea what ZKML is about?
Checking out @drCathieSo_eth ‘s slides 👇 https://t.co/ozcma7wVKw https://t.co/BBKwRBVkuc
— Wyatt Benno (@wyatt_benno) June 29, 2023
For example, zero-knowledge technologies allow users to prove they know something without revealing that information, which is useful for building trust without compromising sensitive data. The idea for Kinic came about after Benno and his collaborator Houman Shadab created ICME – a no-code Web3 tool for creating websites and apps that run on blockchain (particularly the ICP).
After launching ICME, Benno and Shadab received feedback from users that while it was now much easier to build Web3 projects on ICP, this content – say, if authors had built a blog – wasn’t easy to find. Hence the inspiration for Kinic – their blockchain-based search engine.
To envision a website built on ICP, imagine a smart contract (or “Frontend Container” in ICP parlance) that contains the site’s HTML and CSS code. The URL can be the container ID and possibly flag if changes have been made to the site.
Benno has a long list of ways Web3 architecture can benefit app owners and users. Digital ledgers can validate that content belongs to a particular website, for example to help readers determine whether news articles are real or have been cut and pasted from somewhere else. And the decentralized architecture makes legitimate information harder for authorities to suppress.
Picking up on the theme of decentralized computing – pointing to a recent story about TechHQ – he points out that it would be possible for GPU hosts to prove to customers that data was processed as instructed. And this leads the discussion to perhaps one of the biggest ways blockchain-based search engines can beat Google.
Sell your search skills
“Users can create their own machine learning search models and sell them,” notes Benno. “Owners could set the price and keep the weights hidden.” Today, major search engine providers benefit greatly from user data. But in the future, those treasure troves of queries, if used to fine-tune machine learning models, for example, could payday for users rather than big tech.
Benno has had interest from VC firms who want to know what topics are trending on Web3 searches to give them an edge in discovering high-growth opportunities early on. And API access to URL click counters could be a way to monetize Kinic while staying true to its principles of not storing or sharing any personal information.
SnapFusion: text-to-image diffusion model on mobile devices in less than two seconds
paper page: https://t.co/ykIrW1u1Uo
present a generic approach that, for the first time, unlocks running text-to-image diffusion models on mobile devices in less than 2 seconds. We achieve this by… pic.twitter.com/rJjPjCjRDw
— AK (@_akhaliq) June 2, 2023
Large companies are looking at Web3 opportunities with interest – Starbucks, for example, is testing the idea of a digital rewards program using NFTs. And with smartphones capable of efficiently running fine-tuned generative AI models, as well as the emergence of cheap-to-produce LLM updates, it’s an interesting time in search land and related technologies.