Net plan builds in search

By Kimberly Patch, Technology Research News

There is a wealth of information available on the Internet and in separate repositories like university library databases. It would save time to be able to search all digital resources using one interface.

Researchers from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China have come up with a distributed information retrieval system that promises to help. The system could eventually become part of the Internet infrastructure as an extension of the domain name service.

The Domain Resource Integrated System (DRIS) allows a user to search for information whether it resides on Web pages or in databases, said Wang Liang, a researcher at the University. "Hundreds of databases have been introduced in many libraries of universities, and there are many more free information resources on the Internet," he said. The researchers' prototype provides a unified search for the Web, FTP resources, and databases at the researchers' university.

The software organizes resources on three levels -- an individual domain like a university or company, a sub network like the China Education Network (CERNET) that includes all the universities in China, and a top-level domain like the Internet in China, said Liang.

At the individual domain level, the domain organization such as a university or corporation would implement a standard search engine that crawls pages, creates an index and provides a search interface.

At the subnetwork level, the search function would include an index and search interface but no Web crawler. Instead, the data for the domains within the subnetwork would be supplied by the domain-level search engine databases. And at the top-level domain, which is often a country domain, the search function would be a distributed metasearch, or search interface to the indexes at the subnetwork level.

The scheme provides the basic ability to search across resources. This search infrastructure could be used by other software programs to provide more elaborate search abilities, according to Liang.

The researchers are building a Domain Resource Integrated System that integrates all the information resources in Chinese universities, according to Liang. "Our first testbed will be built on [the] China Education Network," he said. "If our first testbed proves that DRIS is a successful system, we can extend it to the whole Internet in China with the help of government."

The testbed will include a standard distributed, platform-independent search interface, a collection descriptions standard, an information retrieval protocol, a standard metadata harvest system, and a standard public pages search system, according to Liang. The system will also take into account the ability of the next-generation Internet standards including Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPV6), especially the ability to assign priorities to different types of data flows, he said.

The ultimate goal is to make the Domain Resource Integrated System software an information retrieval system built into the Internet, said Liang. "The basic idea is that search should be [an] internal function of [the] Internet and everyone should have his own personal intelligent search engine," said Liang.

Connecting personalized front-end search engines to an integrated Internet search function would be convenient in several ways, said Liang.

The integrated search function would cut down on irrelevant and outdated search results, would cover more of the Internet as well as university and other databases, and would cut down on traffic from many search engines periodically crawling the Web to build page indexes.

A personalized search engine would allow a user to better tailor queries. In contrast, every user obtains the same results for a query from general search engines that can't express special interests, he said.

The information retrieval system in the film Time Machine was impressive, and is not far from reality, said Liang. Many researchers are working toward it, he said.

The researchers are planning to complete the experimental system built on the China Education Network by summer, 2004. Liang's research colleagues were Guo Yi-Ping and Fang Ming. The research was funded by the China Academic Library and Information System (CALIS).

Timeline:   < 2 years
Funding:   Government
TRN Categories:  Internet; Databases and Information Retrieval
Story Type:   News
Related Elements:  Technical paper, "Make Search Become the Internal Function of Internet," posted on the Computing Research Repository (CoRR) at


April 7/14, 2004

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