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 GPulp Opens Up Web Searches

by Michelle Delio

The Gnutella Next Generation development team announced on Friday that they are developing a new open source technology for search engines.

The group believes that "gPulp" (general Purpose Location Protocol) will eventually become the standard search tool on every network and computing device. "GPulp will be a ubiquitous, open, free, and powerful tool that lets users find anything - anything! -- on any network," promised Gnutella Next Generation (Gnutella NG) team manager Sebastien Lambla.

GPulp is different from existing search technologies in a number of ways.

It is based on the Gnutella structure, an open source application originally created by Nullsoft. Gnutella enables users to exchange any type of file without having to go through a central server, as users must do with most of the 'sharing' programs, like Napster, that are currently in use.

The first generation of Gnutella

Using the basic protocols originally developed for Gnutella, gPulp will search for information across a network in real time. The returned search results will be based on current information, not on records stored in a database of indexed Web pages.

And since gPulp will search an entire network, any and all data that is available on that network can be located through a single interface. Currently search engines return only the data stored on their own servers, so searchers often need to query several search engines before they find the information they are hunting for.

Lambla offers this example. "Say that you are looking for someone's telephone number. To do this you would need to access a directory server, a LDAP server. The problem is, there are several LDAP servers on the Internet, so you have to find each of them, and query them for the phone number."

"With gPulp, each LDAP server would be searched and you would find out which one has the number that you are looking for. Then, you can look on that specific LDAP server, which can also be accessed from the gPulp network, to get the phone number."

GPulp will also add a powerful location capability to networks.

"The biggest problem today is Domain Names," said Lambla. "There is a limited pool of names that can be used, but there are more and more devices connected to the Internet. Today it's the desktop computer, a handheld device and a phone. Tomorrow it will be your lamps, your bath, etc. All these devices will be connected to the Internet, and gPulp will be able to locate each single device on the network, without you having to give a Domain Name to each device."

Open source program developer Chris Childress thinks that gPulp could be the "über-app" that will completely change the Internet.

"It used to be that the Web really was a web. You could literally click your way around the world just following the links on people's pages, and eventually you'd end up back where you started out. Now, the Web is becoming segmented and static. But with a single and ubiquitous search and location system that is totally open source and available to everyone, the web can become dynamic again."

Of course, gPulp won't achieve its goals if it isn't widely deployed across the entire Internet. But Lambla doesn't think that will be a problem.

"More and more, the big names of the computer industry, like Intel, recognize that peer-to-peer technology has a huge potential, and that it will change the landscape of the Internet industry. They will be interested in gPulp."

One other sticking point might be ease of use. Gnutella has the reputation of being somewhat inaccessible to an inexperienced user. But Lambla said this will not be an issue either, since gPulp will be a framework over which developers will build their applications.

"The 'easiness' of a program will be up to the developer, and the protocol will be completely hidden from the end user. The end user won't see the underlying network. GPulp is a location protocol, so the software will use it, not the users."

The Gnutella NG group hopes to release a first working draft of the gPulp code in early 2001, Lambla said, quickly adding that the group will not commit to a firm deadline.

"We won't hurry to release this protocol, because it's such a big step in the computing industry. We need people from Intel, Cisco, IBM, Sun, even Microsoft to join the gPulp effort so that everyone can agree on this new search platform. And we need to rally all the developers out there interested in Gnutella and in new technologies in general.

"There's quite a lot of work to do."

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