The Open Web Index

Crawling and Indexing the Web for Public Use

by Gijs Hendriksen, Michael Dinzinger, Sheikh Mastura Farzana, Noor
Afshan Fathima, Maik Fröbe, Sebastian Schmidt, Saber Zerhoudi,
Michael Granitzer, Matthias Hagen, Djoerd Hiemstra, Martin
Potthast, and Benno Stein

Only few search engines index the Web at scale. Third parties who want to develop downstream applications based on web search fully depend on the terms and conditions of the few vendors. The public availability of the large-scale Common Crawl does not alleviate the situation, as it is often cheaper to crawl and index only a smaller collection focused on a downstream application scenario than to build and maintain an index for a general collection the size of the Common Crawl. Our goal is to improve this situation by developing the Open Web Index. The Open Web Index is a publicly funded basic infrastructure from which downstream applications will be able to select and compile custom indexes in a simple and transparent way. Our goal is to establish the Open Web Index along with associated data products as a new open web information intermediary. In this paper, we present our first prototype for the Open Web Index and our plans for future developments. In addition to the conceptual and technical background, we discuss how the information retrieval community can benefit from and contribute to the Open Web Index – for example, by providing resources, by providing pre-processing components and pipelines, or by creating new kinds of vertical search engines and test collections.

To be presented at the European Conference on Information Retrieval (ECIR 2024) in Glasgow on 24-28 March.

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