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Backed by free software activists, YaCy aims to literally put search into the hands of users by distributing its indexing engine around the net.
Anyone can download the YaCy software and help the search system improve and spread the load of queries.
Its creators also hope YaCy will be much harder to censor than existing systems that pipe queries through centralised servers.
A project calling itself YaCy – pronounced "ya see" – aims to break Google’s headlock on the search market by giving away an open source search engine that can be used both online and within an intranet.
The YaCy engine is based on peer-to-peer connections rather than search queries being run thorough a central server. Users download the software and act as peers for search, ensuring that no content can be censored and no search results can be recorded and analyzed on central servers.
"Most of what we do on the Internet involves search. It's the vital link between us and the information we're looking for. For such an essential function, we cannot rely on a few large companies, and compromise our privacy in the process," said YaCy project leader Michael Christen in a statement. "YaCy's free search is the vital link between free users and free information. YaCy hands control over search back to us, the users."