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Peer-to-Peer by Andy Oram

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Trust and search engines

File-sharing and anonymous publishing programs provide for distributed, and in some cases fault tolerant, file storage. But for most of these systems, the ability to store files is necessary but not sufficient to achieve their goals. Most of these systems have been built with the hope of enabling people to make their files available to others. For example, Publius was designed to allow people to publish documents so that they are resistant to censorship. But publishing a document that will never be read is of limited use. As with the proverbial tree falling in the forest that nobody was around to hear, an unread document makes no sound—it cannot inform, motivate, offend, or entertain. Therefore, indexes and search engines are important companions to file-sharing and anonymous publishing systems.

As previously stated, all of these file-sharing and anonymous publishing programs are still in their infancy. Continuing this analogy, we can say that searching technologies for these systems are in the embryonic stage. Unlike the Web, which now has mature search engines such as Google and Yahoo!, the world of peer-to-peer search engines consists of ad hoc methods, none of which work well in all situations. Web search engines such as Google catalogue millions of web pages by having web crawlers (special computer programs) read web pages and catalogue them. This method will not work with many of the systems described in this book. Publius, for example, encrypts its ...

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