Inverting the Web 

We use search engines because the Web does not support accessing documents by anything other than URL. This puts a huge amount of control in the hands of the search engine company and those who control the DNS hierarchy.

Given that search engine companies can barely keep up with the constant barrage of attacks, commonly known as "SEO". intended to lower the quality of their results, a distributed inverted index seems like it would be impossible to build.

@freakazoid What methods *other* than URL are you suggesting? Because it is imply a Universal Resource Locator (or Identifier, as URI).

Not all online content is social / personal. I'm not understanding your suggestion well enough to criticise it, but it seems to have some ... capacious holes.

My read is that search engines are a necessity born of no intrinsic indexing-and-forwarding capability which would render them unnecessary. THAT still has further issues (mostly around trust)...

@freakazoid ... and reputation.

But a mechanism in which:

1. Websites could self-index.
2. Indexes could be shared, aggregated, and forwarded.
4. Search could be distributed.
5. Auditing against false/misleading indexing was supported.
6. Original authorship / first-publication was known

... might disrupt things a tad.

Somewhat more:
news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2

NB: the reputation bits might build off social / netgraph models.

But yes, I've been thinking on this.

@enkiv2 I know SEARX is: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Searx

Also YaCy as sean mentioned.

There's also something that is/was used for Firefox keyword search, I think OpenSearch, a standard used by multiple sites, pioneered by Amazon.

Being dropped by Firefox BTW.

That provides a query API only, not a distributed index, though.

@freakazoid @drwho

@dredmorbius @enkiv2 @freakazoid YaCy isn't federated, but Searx is, yeah. YaCy is p2p.
@dredmorbius @enkiv2 @freakazoid Also, the initial criticism of the URL system isn't entirely there: the DNS is annoying, but isn't needed for accessing content on the WWW. You can directly navigate to public IP addresses and it works just as well, which allows you to skip the DNS. (You can even get HTTPS certs for IP addresses.)

Still centralized, which is bad, but centralized in a way that you can't really get around in internetworked communications.

@kick HTTP isn't fully DNS-independent. For virtualhosts on the same IP, the webserver distinguishes between content based on the host portion of the HTTP request.

If you request by IP, you'll get only the default / primary host on that IP address.

That's not _necessarily_ operating through DNS, but HTTP remains hostname-aware.

@enkiv2 @freakazoid

@dredmorbius @kick @enkiv2 IP is also worse in many ways than using DNS. If you have to change where you host the content, you can generally at least update your DNS to point at the new IP. But if you use IP and your ISP kicks you off or whatever, you're screwed; all your URLs are new invalid. Dat, IPFS, FreeNet, Tor hidden sites, etc, don't have this issue. I suppose it's still technically a URL in some of these cases, but that's not my point.

@freakazoid Question: is there any inherent reason for a URL to be based on DNS hostnames (or IP addresses)?

Or could an alternate resolution protocol be specified?

If not, what changes would be required?

(I need to read the HTTP spec.)

@kick @enkiv2

@dredmorbius @kick @enkiv2 HTTP URLs don't have any way to specify the lookup mechanism. RFC3986 says the part after the // and optional authentication info followed by @ is a "registered name" or an address. It doesn't say the name has to be resolved via DNS but does say it is up to the local system to decide how to resolve it. So if you just wanted self-certifying names or whatever you can use otherwise unused TLDs the way Tor does with .onion.

@freakazoid Hrm....

So:

There are alternate URLs, e.g., irc://host/channel
news://newsgroup/

I'm wondering if a standard for an:

http://<address-proto><delim>address> might be specifiable.

Onion achieves this through the onion TLD. But using a reserved character ('@' comes to mind) might allow for an addressing protocol _within_ the HTTP URL itself, to be used....

@kick @enkiv2

@dredmorbius @kick @enkiv2 @ is already reserved for the optional username[:password] portion before the hostname.

@freakazoid @dredmorbius @enkiv2 Is ! still reserved (! may be a DNS thing actually, thinking about it further)?

@kick As of RFC 2369, "!" was unreserved. That RFC is now obsolete. Not sure if status is changed.

tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2396

@enkiv2 @freakazoid

@dredmorbius @enkiv2 @freakazoid Entirely unrelated because I just remembered this based on @kragen's activity in this thread:

Vaguely shocked that I'm interacting with both of you because I'm pretty sure you two are the people I've (at least kept in memory for long enough) read the words of online consistently for longest. (Since I was like, eight, maybe, on Kragen's part. Not entirely sure about you but less than I've checked canonical.org/~kragen for by a decent margin at least.)

@kick Clue seeks clue.

You're asking good questions and making good suggestions, even where wrong / confused (and I do plenty of both, that's not a criticism).

You're helping me (and I suspect Sean) think through areas I've long been bothered about concerning the Web / Internet. Which I appreciate.

(Kragen may have this all figured out, he's far certainly ahead of me on virtually all of this, and has been for decades.)

@enkiv2 @kragen @freakazoid

@dredmorbius @kick @enkiv2 @freakazoid while I appreciate the vote of confidence, and I did spend a long time figuring out how to build a scalable distributed index, I am as at much of a loss as anyone when it comes to figuring out the social aspect of the problem (SEO spam, ranking, funding).

@kragen I see a lot of this coming down to:

- What is the incremental value of additional information sources? At some point, net of validation costs, this falls below zero.

- Google's PageRank relied on inter-document and -domain relations. Author-based trust hasn't carried as much weight. I believe it needs to.

- Randomisation around ranking should help avoid systemib bias lock-ins.

- Penalties for fraud, with increasing severity and duration for repeats.

@kick @enkiv2 @freakazoid

@kragen - Some way of vetting new arrivals / entities, such that legitimate newcomers aren't entirely locked out of the system. Effectively letters of recommendation or reference.

@kick @enkiv2 @freakazoid

@dredmorbius @kragen @enkiv2 @freakazoid How much privacy are you willing to sacrifice with this?

Taking a single possibility (I listed a few) from a thing I wrote to a couple of posts up-thread but didn’t send because I want to hear someone’s opinion on a sub-problem of one of the guesses listed:

Seed with trusted users (i.e. people submitting sites to crawl), rank preferentially by age (time-limited; would eventually wear off), then rank on access-by-unique-users. Given that centralized link aggregators wouldn’t disappear, someone throws HN in, for example, the links on HN get added into the pool, whichever get clicked on most rise up, eventually get their own ranking, etc.

This works especially well if using what I sent the e-mail to inquire a little more about: cluster sorting rather than just barebacking text (this is what Yippy does, for example, and what Blekko used to do), because it promotes niche results better than Google’s model with smaller datasets, and when users have more seamless access to better niches, more sites can get rep easier. Example: try https://yippy.com/search?query=dredmorbius vs. throwing your username into Google. The clustering allows for much more informative/interesting results, I think, especially if doing inquisitive searching.

Kragen mentioned randomly introducing newcomers (adding noise), but I think it might work better still if noise was added to the searches for at least the beginning of it. A single previously-unclicked link on the first five pages of search results?

@kick As little as possible.

I've not participated online under my real name (or even vague approximations of it) for a decade or more. That was seeming increasingly unattractive to me already then. And I'd been online for at least two decades by that point.

Of the various dimensions of trust, anti-sock-puppetry is one axis. It's not the only one. It matters a lot in some contexts. Less in others.

Doxxing may be occasionally warranted.

Umasking is a risk.

@enkiv2 @kragen @freakazoid

@dredmorbius @enkiv2 @kragen @freakazoid Privacy isn't just deanonymizing! You can also track pseudonyms.

@kick Right. My comments were aimed more at qualifying my interest in / preferences for privacy.

I'm finding contemporary society to be very nearly intolerable. And probably ultimately quite dangerous.

@enkiv2 @kragen @freakazoid

@dredmorbius @kick @enkiv2 @freakazoid yeah, although in many ways it's an improvement over Golden Horde society, Ivan the Terrible society, Third Crusade society, Diocletian society, Qin Er Shi society, Battle of the Bulge society, Khmer Rouge society, Holodomor society, People's Temple society, the society that launched the Amistad, etc. We didn't start the fire.

@kragen Of the various drawbacks of the Mongol Hordes, massive mobile technological surveillance was not a prominent aspect.

The Battle of the Bulge and Holdomor societies _did_ benefit from informational organisation. Khmer Rouge and People's Temple may have, and the capabilities certainly existed.

General capabilities began ~1880, again with Holerith, nascent IBM.

@kick @enkiv2 @freakazoid

@dredmorbius @kick @enkiv2 @freakazoid depending on who you were and where you lived, it was easy to end up with very little privacy after the Mongol invasion. The fact that the technologies employed were things like chains and swords rather than punched cards and loyalty scores was cold comfort to the enslaved. But, yes, I meant that the societies were more regrettable overall, not necessarily specifically along the surveillance axis.

@kragen My evolving thought is that privacy is an emergent concept, it's a force that grows proportionately to the ability to invade personal space and sanctum.

Pretechnical society had busybodies, gossibs, evesdroppers, spies, and assassins.

But if you wanted to listen to or observe someone, you had to put a body in proximity to do it. Preliterate (or largely so) society plebes didn't even leave paper trails. A baptismal, marriage, and will, if you were lucky.

@kick @enkiv2 @freakazoid

@dredmorbius @kick @enkiv2 @freakazoid Well, privacy invasion was more typically done by your father, your husband, or your owner in many of these societies, rather than by the secret police. But it was in many cases quite pervasive. Of course when we think about medieval Europe, it's easier to imagine ourselves as monks, knights, or at least yeomen, than as villeins in gross, vagabonds, or women who died in forced childbirth, precisely because of that paper trail.

@kragen @dredmorbius @enkiv2 @freakazoid It's still done by all of those! Now it's just a mixed bag. Think about how much an adolescent risks if a guardian finds one of their social media handles (assuming they're doing anything interesting), for example.

@kick @enkiv2 @dredmorbius @freakazoid Much less so! In rich countries most women do have a room of their own, for example, and very few families will disown their children for premarital sex. Even gay sex is unlikely to result in fatal social sanctions in much of the world. Being kicked out of the house by your parents in your childhood is no longer a near death sentence. And of course many fewer people have owners at all, much less owners who can kill them at will with impunity.

@kragen On the other hand, previously one could travel, even a short distance, though also longer, and put much of that threat behind, starting over with a fresh identity.

That's ... extraordinarily difficult these days. Not unheard of, but it takes far more effort, risks and likelihood of being caught and exposed are much higher, and The System Never Forgets.

@kick @enkiv2 @freakazoid

@dredmorbius @kick @enkiv2 @freakazoid most people couldn't; banishment was tantamount to a death sentence unless there was a recently-genocided frontier nearby. even then, it meant you'd never see anyone you loved ever again. but there were intermediate levels. even if traveling from town to town in many epochs posed a high risk of being robbed, and the near certainty of being raped if you were a young woman, there were other times when it did not; and even if there was a risk, you might return

@kragen @dredmorbius @enkiv2 @freakazoid This is ignoring the recent past pre-network somewhat, isn't it? Before passports were required for international flight, people could more or less do this without consequence. Also, the minimal size of community probably made the prospect of not seeing loved ones again much easier even back in the oldest times.
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@kick @enkiv2 @dredmorbius @freakazoid when there was flight but no passports required for international flight, almost everyone either could not afford flight at all, lived in countries like the USSR that granted exit visas sparingly, or both. And international travel was itself riskier; my sister rode her motorcycle from the US to Argentina to visit me a few years ago, prompting the remark from my father that when he was her age, in the late 1970s, nobody would have survived attempting that.

@kragen @enkiv2 @dredmorbius @freakazoid US to Argentina is a lot more difficult a trek than US to Canada ever was, isn't it? My view here may be a bit influenced by all of the people I know who fled the US for Canada before the border was actually maintained in any way other than symbolically, so I figure I could be biased, here.

Agree with most of the rest of that, though.
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