DARPA trying to re-invent Internet search ... after inventing the Web in the first place

THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 11 Feb. 2014. Imagine an Internet that enabled its users to slice and dice content into subsets of content relevant to their interests and needs, rather than top-down keyword searches that commercial search engines like Google and Bing offer.

Well that's just what information technology experts at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are trying to do. In fact, DARPA is trying to re-invent the Internet in a fundamental way with the Memex program, which was launched earlier this month.

It's interesting -- and fitting -- that DARPA should re-invent the Internet, since the agency's precursor, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) invented the original Internet back in 1969 with the first packet-switched network based on TCP/IP protocols called ARPANET. ARPA was created in 1958, and was renamed DARPA in 1972.

Related: DARPA to brief industry 18 Feb. on program to create new Internet search paradigm

The DARPA Memex program is trying to establish new approaches for deep-search of the Internet that offer domain-specific indexing of content and domain-specific search capabilities. The Memex program envisions a new paradigm that will enable users of the World Wide Web to organize a subset of the Internet relevant to their interests.

The original ARPANET, which evolved into today's World Wide Web, was one of the world's first operational packet switching networks, and was the first network to implement TCP/IP. It was intended to connect ARPA, universities, and research laboratories in the U.S. to help coordinate ARPA research.

Now DARPA is taking the next step forward with the Memex program. It seeks to develop technology that enables users to discover, organize, and present domain-relevant content, and provide fast, flexible, and efficient access content that has been narrowed down and organized. The program seeks to develop search interfaces that provide insights into domains that previously remained unexplored.

Related: DARPA envisions new Internet search paradigm; could help counter slavery and prostitution

That would be a far cry from what's available today with commercial search engines, which rely on the user to craft the most efficient keyword search words and phrases. As most of us know, it can be a frustrating hit-or-miss process.

If the Memex program yields promising technology, it could lead to a fundamental change in how we search the Web and find information, and could redefine what we know as search engine optimization, which relies heavily on keywords and phrases, and black-magic algorithms proprietary to the search engine providers that are closely held secrets and changed regularly.

As a sidelight, the DARPA Memex program includes a law-enforcement component to go along with its reinvention of Internet search, by using advanced search functionality to counter how the Internet enables crimes involving human trafficking such as prostitution and slavery.

Related: DARPA eyes space-based Internet for persistent battlefield data communications, surveillance, and satellite control

An index curated for the counter trafficking domain, which includes labor and sex trafficking, and configurable interfaces for search and analysis, will enable a new opportunity to defeat trafficking enterprises, DARPA officials say.

For the rest of us, the Memex program is trying to develop Internet search technology to enrich content detail, share content across pages, save sessions, and allow content sharing, and organize Internet search results beyond a list of links.

The program is trying to develop true domain-specific indexing involves a scalable Web crawling infrastructure for content discovery and information extraction that adapts continuously to changing data, changing site administration, data items being extended, transformed, becoming stale, or deleted.

The Memex program kicks off next week with DARPA briefings to industry in Arlington, Va. Let the searches begin.

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