Piloting a Cooperative Open Web Search Infrastructure to Support Europe’s Digital Sovereignty

Web search has become an essential technology and commodity, driving not only future innovations but forming a backbone for our digital economy. Regrettably, currently few non-European gatekeepers control Web search, which creates a biased, one-sided information access centred around economic success rather than the needs of citizens or European values and jurisdiction. This one-sided ecosystem puts pressure on many small Web contributors from science, economy, art, culture, media and society requiring them to optimize their content for a few gatekeepers. The system greatly benefiting the gatekeepers thereby creates a vicious cycle, which leads to locked-in effects and a closed search engine market.

To promote an open human-centered search engine market and to provide a true choice to users when selecting search engines based on their own preferences, OpenWebSearch.EU proposes to develop and pilot the core of a European Open Web Index (OWI) and the foundation for an open and extensible European Open Web Search and Analysis Infrastructure (OWSAI). Our approach is based on four objectives, namely:

  1. to develop a core suite of search, discovery and analytics services to create, maintain and utilize the OWI
  2. to develop relevant search engine verticals and new search paradigms demonstrating the impact
  3. to establish a network of European HPC-infrastructure, research and business organizations to pilot the OWSAI based on European values, principles, legislation, ethics and standards
  4. to stimulate an ecosystem around the OWI.

The envisioned infrastructure will not only contribute to Europe’s sovereignty for navigating and searching the web, but it will also empower European researchers, innovators and businesses to systematically tap into the Web as a business and innovation resource, without paying huge upfront costs. This will be particularly crucial for future AI innovations and relevant for other European infrastructures such as the European Open Science Cloud and GAIA-X.

Three areas will be in focus for CSC’s contribution to this project; the infrastructure for development, storage, and provisioning of the Open Web Index; natural language models and knowledge graphs; and the open web search ecosystem and sustainability.