Volunia vies to be the 'search engine of the future'
Feb. 27, 2012
by Mark Ollig

It is being called “an ambitious project” by the Italian computer science professor who created it.

Earlier this month, Massimo Marchiori gave a one-hour presentation about his new Internet search engine, called Volunia, at the University of Padua, in Italy, where he also teaches.

“It’s just not a Google or some other search engine,” said Marchiori.

On its Twitter page, Volunia says, “It’s [Volunia] a new radical view of what the search engine of the future could be.”

During the last few years, we have seen new search engine introductions, such as Bing and Wolfram|Alpha (both launched in 2009), with the latter being advertised as a computational knowledge search engine.

And, who could ever forget the infamous search engine named Cuil?

Well, I am willing to say many of us apparently did forget.

Started in 2008 by two former Google employees, Cuil appeared to be headed in the right direction.

Cuil was given much press, as it was thought its founders would bring some of the Google “magic” with them to Cuil.

Some folks were saying Cuil was a bona fide challenger to Google.

Cuil was even listed as one of the most successful startup companies of 2008 by BusinessWeek magazine.

However, by 2010, Cuil was just not cool anymore, as the increasing number of user complaints, along with a massive drop-off in usage, led to the accelerated downfall of the company.

A failed acquisition of Cuil eventually caused the company to close its doors.

In 1997, Massimo Marchiori had created a computer algorithmic program, called Hyper Search.

The Hyper Search algorithm program gathered information from the Web, and more accurately ranked the text pages based on the user’s search terms.

Marchiori’s 1997 paper states how Hyper Search could be integrated as a “post-processor” on search engines.

The information gathered and presented to the user from the Web using Hyper Search screening was much more precise than existing search engine text screening methods of the day. Marchiori called this “dynamic information.”

Marchiori taught his Hyper Search algorithm programming to students at MIT.

Two people, Larry Page and Sergery Brin, became very inspired by Marchiori’s Hyper Search algorithm.

These two names may be familiar to you – they both co-founded Google.

Google uses a web link analysis program called Page Rank, which was, in part, influenced by Marchiori’s Hyper Search.

Google had, in fact, made an offer for Marchiori to work at Google, but Marchiori declined, choosing to continue his teaching and concentrating on his Hyper Search studies.

After many years of working on his futuristic search engine using his Hyper Search algorithm, he set up a beta test of Volunia.

Recently, Marchiori has been going over the feed-back provided to him by more than 100,000 enrolled “Power User” beta-testers currently using the features of Volunia.

My research leads me to believe that Volunia is a blending of web search engine and social media networking.

Volunia allows every web page visited to become an online social gathering place.

One example containing online search blended with social media could occur if say, you just performed an Internet search with the term “Roman Coliseum” using Volunia.

Your display screen will show the returned website’s hyperlinks with pictures, lines of text, and additional information not shown on other search engines.

Volunia provides a unique way of visually presenting the user what’s “inside” a website. The website’s text, pictures, and any audio files, are clearly presented, and easily accessible.

The additional information Volunia provides that I like is the two sets of numbers next to each returned website link Volunia presents after a search is made.

The first set shows the total number of users who have visited the website link in the past, and the second set shows the total number of users who are currently using the website.

This additional information from Volunia might cause me to choose the more visited website, or, I could click on one of the icons representing a person who is currently inside a website and ask their opinion about the quality of the information they are finding there. I could also invite them into a chat about the website’s topic, since we are both interested in researching and learning more about it.

The search-engine/social-media component of Volunia is something I very much believe will become popular with Internet users. This combination will promote a more interactive search, and encourage new, online social discourse and meeting encounters.

Volunia will allow a user to not only seek out information in a unique way at a website, but will provide the design functionality to meet someone who is also at the same website, and chat with them.

This may be the reason why the Volunia logo has the words “seek and meet” under it.

Currently, Volunia is still undergoing beta testing, and is not yet accessible to the online user.

Volunia will be available in 12 languages.

You can visit Volunia’s public launch webpage, enroll as a Power User beta-tester, and watch video presentations at http://launch.volunia.com.

“The Quest for Correct Information on the Web: Hyper Search Engines,” written in 1996 by Massimo Marchiori, can be read at http://tinyurl.com/74s99ap.

Marchiori’s presentation of Volunia can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/7e5lw8l.

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