Sunbeam Is Your Search Engine

Sunbeam The First User Search EngineIn previous versions (for those of you lucky enough to see the Alpha of the world’s first search engine to run directly from the user’s own desktop) Sunbeam would ask you to input your favorite websites as a starting point for its indexing routines. This was a problem for two reasons:

  1. Nobody ever wants to enter anything they don’t have to, especially when that information exists somewhere on their machine.
  2. It limited the ‘profile’ of the user initially available to Sunbeam and how quickly they’d be able to retrieve information actually relevant to them.

It also meant that the semantic engine that appeared in the earliest release was not capable of returning accurate matches for a period whilst the engine cranked up and had indexed at least a few hundred pages.

I’d been musing over these problems for a while, I wanted an experience where the user would be able to just install the program, let it do its work without going through any configuration screens, which they may not understand or that might put them off the install completely.

The solution as it turned out, was fairly simple. Using the browsing history of the user we can track down the urls that are visited most frequently and most recently without damaging privacy. After all these are just starting points to build a profile of interests. Data like this is a goldmine for Sunbeams advanced statistical algorithms and will enable it to deliver the results that mimic the language used in the websites in your browsing history.

It doesn’t stop there though, also added are routines that scan your outlook sent messages, tracking the semantics of your own typed words. These again, are not stored as complete messages anywhere in the system, are not tied to email addresses or even subject lines and privacy here is key. What is most important here is that you as a user will never have to go through a slew of irritating questions when you install Sunbeam, that inadequately attempt to locate and disect your interests.

Seeing as I expect privacy to be such an issue here, let’s turn to another reason to use Sunbeam over Google or Yahoo:

  • Your searches are your own.
  • Your data will never be sent anywhere else (there isn’t the server space for it!).
  • If you choose to share your search database with anyone else (as easy as emailing the one file), then that’s completely up to you and not something you have to ‘opt-in’ to.

This software is entirely your own to play with, these are the things I’m really loving about it:

  • You can play with the open source search algorithm.
  • You can swap, share and amalgamate databases with friends or download one from the web.
  • There are no adverts, no pop ups and no interruptions.
  • If you don’t remember the exact word you’re looking for, just put in a similar one, or a descriptive phrase.
  • If you want to use the same database when you get home, just mail it to yourself.
  • If you don’t like the results you’re getting, run a seperate database for work and for home to match your corporate and downtime moods.
  • If you have to do market research on teenagers, just use the database your nephew compiled.

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4 Comments on “Sunbeam Is Your Search Engine”

  1. Tim Wintle says:

    Sounds like work is coming along well, how is sunbeam going to be liscenced? Any chance we’ll get a look at the code? Is the index format going to be publically available?

  2. Phill says:

    Anyone will be able to open an index file and look through the database structure and content, provided they have some sql management software 🙂

    The search algorithm itself will be available as an open source (GPL2 I believe) C# module.

  3. Tim Wintle says:

    Great news, I look forward to having a chance to check it out. Any more tech-info available? I assume you’re using a vector space search algorithm, have you decided on weighting functions – I guess you may have different results with a custom-index like this? (feel free to reply by email if you don’t want to carry this on in the comments)

  4. Phill says:

    That’s your lot for now Tim. The plan is to roll things out in a fairly modular fashion. Like addon packs for an online game – we hope to encourage a community of developers to have their own input.


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