Monday, April 22, 2019

Search & Privacy

I've been using DuckDuckGo.com (DDG) for search recently instead of Google because of its privacy features--it doesn't track you or store your searches. And generally I find it to be useful, delivering relevant content better than or equal to Google's relatively commercial content.

When I want to shop for something, I go to Google because it's a strong engine for that--it's a commerce discovery platform when it comes down to it. Or Amazon.

DDG doesn't track anything, which is meaningful these days when every site and likely every agency tracks what you're doing.

I still think there's a space for curated search, which is what I attempted to do with the unfortunately named Jawaya, a social search or curated search engine of sorts. And I've been building a similar tool for myself as a side project that will approximate that. It's much more powerful with a network of people curating search results. So I might open it up at some point to see if that still holds true.

I think the key with any future social media is that user-generated content should live with the user, and not the service. What I'm building will have a combination of local storage and a cloud database on a per-person basis, anonymized and accessible only by that user. They'll be able to optionally contribute their work (curated content) to the network, which improves the results for everybody else. All of the data will be encrypted.

That data should be theirs and should be portable--it should be that way for Twitter, Facebook, etc. But their models don't support that and I doubt they'll ever move in that direction.

One of the reasons I'm using DDG is because it doesn't track you, but one of the shortcomings is it doesn't track you--you lose out on some of the positive results from that tracking, like relevant retailers finding you. It's not a big loss.

But what would be powerful is an ad system where my anonymous data could be exposed to an ad network, and I'd get ads on that basis (the site would need a revenue source and I doubt people would pay much for it), rather than getting ads on the basis of data held by Google or others. I'm not sure I'm being clear here, but maybe it's this, and maybe someone's already thought of it:

  1. store anonymous, portable data, either locally or on the cloud
  2. send keyword data to ad network 
  3. ad network matches relevant ads
  4. site displays ads to anonymous browser. I think. 
So I'm keeping this in mind as I build a simple tool. I'm using React Native for the mobile app, React for the web app, and Node/Express/Mongo/Mongoose for the back end. It's fun getting back into it, and especially fun to learn new tech by applying it to an idea I never quite finished. 

Oh--I almost forgot: go check out http://www.duckduckgo.com and give it a chance for a month or so. It's run by Philly-based entrepreneur Gabe Weinberg, who also wrote a helpful book for startups. 





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