For the OpenWebSearch.EU project, CSC – IT Science Center in Finland (also known as the Finnish Science Computing Centre) has joined forces with 13 other renowned European research centers to develop an open European infrastructure for web research. The goal of the project is to promote European digital sovereignty and the development of an open and human-centric search engine market. The European Commission has just approved funding for the Horizon Europe project in the amount of 8.5 million euros.
As a reminder, the Finnish Science Computing Center provides computational support and simulation, computational and information services for universities, research institutes and companies in Finland. It is owned by the Finnish state and Finnish higher education institutions, administered by the Ministry of Education and Culture and operates on a non-profit basis.
Free, open and unbiased access to information – we have lost these fundamental principles of web search and urgently need to restore them. That is why we will create an open European infrastructure for Internet search based on European values and jurisdiction,” said Michael Granitzer from the University of Passau and the Open Search Foundation, coordinator of the OpenWebSearch.EU project.
Over the next three years, the researchers will develop the framework of the European Open Web Index (OWI) as the basis for new Internet research in Europe. In addition, the project will lay the foundation for an open and extensible European Web Based Search and Analysis Infrastructure (OWSAI) based on European values, principles, legislation and standards.
Three areas will be central to the CSC’s contribution to this project; an infrastructure for developing and storing the Open Web Index, natural language models, and knowledge graphs; and an open web search ecosystem and sustainability. This will be a long-term commitment on our part with great potential to provide new services, especially based on web indexes based on Finnish and Swedish content,” said Hanna-Mari Puuska, Director of CSC.
The project arose out of concerns about an imbalance in the search engine market. Despite being the backbone of our digital economy, web search is dominated and limited by a few gatekeepers such as Google, Microsoft, Baidu or Yandex. Thus, information as a public good with free, impartial and transparent access is no longer under public control. This imbalance threatens democracy and limits the innovative potential of the European research environment and economy.
The role of the World Wide Web as an infrastructure for research and society as a whole cannot be underestimated. But it takes a huge effort to collect and organize data from the Internet so that it can be used to search for information or as a data source for research, explains CSC director Perster. Real research is dominated by a few companies with predominantly commercial interests. Therefore, what they offer us will always be a compromise between maximizing advertising sales and overall utility. In that case, as users, can we trust the results of the study to be unbiased and comprehensive? Through this project, we will demonstrate and test the infrastructure and technology needed to serve society with open web indexes that can be used to build government and commercial services.
The multidisciplinary consortium OpenWebSearch.EU, made up of 14 European partners, is convinced that an open web search infrastructure will not only promote European sovereignty in web browsing and search, it will benefit all of us as citizens. Depending on our own preferences, we will finally once again have a real choice when choosing search engines.
OpenWebSearch.EU is the first EU-funded project that powers the web search of tomorrow. It started in September 2022. Initially, 14 partner institutions will cooperate for three years. The project received funding of 8.5 million euros from the research and innovation program Horizon of the European Union.
What search engine do you use?
What do you think of this project?
Better way than the Qwant initiative? Completely useless given ingrained online research habits? congratulations and watch closely, what will come of it?
What do you think of the arguments put forward to justify the existence of this project?
According to a study, one in five TikTok searches contains misinformation. Young users have started replacing Google with TikTok as their search engine