What if I told you that someone spent two years of their life creating a search engine capable of cataloging any and every geographical entity by multiple attributes, and further created a lexical search technology capable of retrieving and processing this information in any known human language that can be processed by computer?
Someone did, 16 hours a day, six to seven days a week, for a total of over 8,000 hours over a two year period.
I had the flimsiest of reasons to create a local search engine. I used to have a model train set, HO series, that I ran as a kid. I still have the cars and some locomotives. I could not reliably find a hobby shop that carried the equipment I needed with any current search engine. After clicking through meaningless search results, I got shunted to a manufacturer’s website, and there I had to go through their store locator. After ten minutes of searching, I might now have a lead on a local resource. If this problem could be solved, were there other implications?
Yes, there were implications: if it were possible to have access to authoritative listings of local businesses, some of them could gain that elusive level playing field that those with more marketing muscle use to such great effect. If you could enter simple criteria into a search engine, you could be presented with results that meet your criteria, without all the nonsense that Google, Yahoo and Yelp throw at you in heavy doses.
Yes, I know how the business models of Google, Yahoo, Yelp and others work. I know it has created billionaires. But has anyone but them and those with huge marketing budgets been served? The Internet will have served the public well when the game cannot be so blatantly rigged in favor of a small minority.
I believe I know a way to make this work, and that is to make it available to everyone. So I’m proceeding on the path of making this an open source project, built with open source tools. I had more fun working on this project than anything else I have ever done. You can read about the history of the project.