An Open Source Search Engine Recalls an Earlier Era of Being Online

Stract has a lot to recommend it

Online search
What does it mean to search for things online?
Getty Images

For a certain generation — or, really, a subset of a certain generation — being Very Online in the 1990s was very different than it is today. For starters, searching was a very different business; Google was far from the only game in town, and search results could vary dramatically depending on which search engine you used. You could even use a search engine aggregator — the very missed Metacrawler — to get an overview of results from different services.

Nowadays, the search space is very different than it once was — and the question of how AI may further change it is significant. But there’s also demand for a search engine that delivers a pared-down and focused experience, one that doesn’t try to estimate your needs or prioritized sponsored results. And it’s possible that an open source search engine called Stract could fill that niche for many people.

In a new article at 404 Media, Jason Koebler talked with the creator of Stract, a man named Mikkel Denker who is currently at work on his master’s thesis. Denker is frustrated with the current state of search engines, and told 404 Media that he’s seeking a way to “browse the web in an open manner.”

According to the article, the search engine is processing 1,000 searches every hour — no small feat considering that it’s based on a server in Denker’s office.

Is the Algorithm Inevitable? This Book Argues It’s Not.
Kyle Chayka on the making of “Filterworld”

Stract’s features include letting users customize their search through various “optics,” such as prioritizing academic sources or independent sites and blogs. It hearkens back to an earlier era of the internet, when things felt a bit more freewheeling and online communities had a more organic component to them. Denker told Koebler that he’s planning to focus more of his attention on Stract soon — encouraging news for anyone hoping for more search engine options.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.