organized search

Today’s Indian Express carried an article about Kosmix, another search engine but with a revolutionary new idea. We all know that Google has become synonymous to web search that we often call it as googling. May be that verb should get added to the dictionaries.

But, as the article rightly points out, the outcome of a Google search is nothing but a list of blue links, sorted by its PageRank mechanism. Thus, what we see as the result is just the top scoring web pages and not a mixture of relevant and different types of information. The reason is still most top web search engines consider the web to be made of pages, which is not entirely true.

Though we still access a web page to see a content or in original terms the information, the information is not just a bunch of text. And even information as a bunch of text is not of the same type. In this web2.0 era, information is not just in web pages, it is in blogs, it is in Orkut and Facebook profiles and groups, it is in microblogging especially tweets, it is in images posted in Flickr and lot other places, it is in discussion forums, it is in Youtube and other video sharing sites, it is in iTunes and other music sharing sites, and a hell lot of other places and in a hell lot of formats.

For example, when we are searching about a person we just do not want to know his home page and wherever his name is mentioned. We might want to know his personal information, we might want to know his Facebook profile, we might want to know his digital albums, we might want to know the music he hears to or uploads, we might want to know the video he has just uploaded or a video about him or presented by him, we might want to know his last tweet, we might want to know lot of other things. Just giving them as a list of blue links in a page doesn’t help people anymore.

The search results need to be organized and categorized so that the audience can get a big screen picture and not the boring links to click one after another in an endeavor to find the information that one wants. This is what Kosmix tries to do. It organizes the information into news, video, books, blogs, tweets, photos…

For example, search for Manmohan Singh gives me the wiki article about him, videos of him and about him, links for information pertaining to him, images of him, discussion about him, questions asked about him,  news and blogs, and all you want to know about him neatly organized.

As the article mentions in the end, it is now upto Google, Yahoo and other search engine beasts to wake up and take the web search to the next era. We are sick of blue links..

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The Firefox Fluster

When people speak about successful Open Source projects, what tops the list is the famous Open Source browser that’s been used by people not only on GNU/Linux, but on Windows and Mac as well. Firefox has always been the one prime example that OSS projects can be successful and famous. But no project is without problems, especially when the number of people using it and thereby the expectations on it from different kinds of people keeps growing.

This is not the first time that a GNU/Linux distribution is facing a problem with people behind the brand Firefox, indeed many distros took the decision to denounce the brand name Firefox and stay as Free as possible. But there were other distros which managed to get into an understanding and could keep the Firefox ball rolling.

What has happened over the recent past is that Firefox has come up with a requirement that when the distribution makes it’s own changes to Firefox and still want to use the branding of Firefox have to display an EULA when it’s users start Firefox the first time. As the distro chose to bundle Firefox as the default browser, this means that when you install this distro and start the browser the very first time, you have to face an EULA and agree to it to continue using the browser.

The second wave of problem associated with this is that it is conspired that the distro chose to implement this without consulting, debating and discussing with the community. A recent thread started in its bug tracker, lead to a long discussion (which many felt should have happened in a mailing list and not in a bug tracker).

The possible outcomes can be,

  1. Firefox again agrees for Ubuntu to use it without EULA being thrown to its users, hence the problem ends, at least for now.
  2. Ubuntu decides to still have Firefox with EULA but somehow get the permission not to throw on its users at first start (i.e. meaning all users implicitly agree to EULA when they start it first time)
  3. Ubuntu, following Debian and other distros, decides to denounce the Firefox brand and go for a custom brand or use Icedove (or similar browsers)

A lot of people support solution #3, especially those who want Ubuntu to strongly adhere to being like a Free Software distribution. My knowledge is very limited to the legal fundas behind it, but lots of people like me are also concerned. At one side, it’s about the philosophy of freedom which had been keeping us with FOSS. On the other side, it might be losing a well matured and powerful browser like Firefox. But we all hope that the final decision taken by people behind Ubuntu will be to the best interests of its community and something a major portion of the community can accept.

Read Today – 2nd November

Today, I read two interesting articles which I would like pointing out to my friends.

First is an Open Letter to Steve Ballmer from the lead of Mandriva. I too had my comments to this but as am running back home, will add it later. Nigerian Government has decided that they will replace Mandriva Linux,, which was actually customized for the Classmate PC going to be used, with M$ Windows though they will be paying for the Mandriva. Its not just a 100 or 1000 PCs but 17000 machines, which could have been otherwise running a GNU/Linux OS and the Nigerian kids would have got a chance to learn about Freedom in Software. Damn! 😡

Second is a wiki page pointed out by Onkar Shinde on OLPC in India. I was really impressed by their work and success. Hope more of such success stories follows 🙂