Presenting the new initiative, CEO Renato Soru, said that istella aims to be an alternative and complementary service to Google, adding that it can be replicated in other countries. The aims of the new search engine include “to systematize and disseminate the Italian cultural heritage“. Italian domains have been indexed with special care in the search engine, which includes a total of more than 3 million domains and 3 billion pages. Soru said that the project required over 15 years of investments, with several tens of millions of euros invested since 2000.
Is there is a need for an Italian alternative to Google? Soru did not ignore the question. The Sardinian entrepreneur has been thinking about this alternative since the time of Arianna, , the search engine built by three researchers of Pisa, Giuseppe Attardi, Dominic Dato and Antonio Gulli, and purchased in 1999 by Tiscali. Arianna is no longer in operation since 2001, but the team that has given rise to istella, a word which means star in the Sardinian language (that is why it should not be read in an English way, Soru warned). Istella however will not be Arianna Since then the technology has greatly evolved and has changed the way of life the Net “This is the project that I love the most – the former president of Sardinia admits – I think it’s important that if a tourist comes to Rome, and wants to know what the Colosseum is, we are able to tell him in Italian. We do not need to have a stranger tell him about it“.
But of course istella is also a business project, with numbers already respectable (starting from the four and a half billion pages already online) and business goals are very ambitious: “This is a segment that will see a 2,5 billion turnover per year – says the entrepreneur – it costed us 15 years of investments, and it is set as a business model similar to other search engines, selling advertising, keywords, and open data (which are free, however, to the world of research.) We could then enter into agreements of various types, for example with the government to complete the maps that go back in time and places of the city: at the moment there are maps only for the major Italian cities. “
Istella needs to be different from the existing search engines. It did not make sense to set up a country version of Google. Then Tiscali has focused on the content, trying to offer different and perhaps more interesting content. “Istella will scan the web, the hidden web that stock and content of inestimable value to share the Italian culture, and will make possible for all users to search, share and contribute.”
The contents are provided by some of the main partners of the project: the Institute Treccani, LaPresse news agency, the Central Institute for the Archives of the Ministry of Culture, the Central Institute for the Union Catalogue the Ministry of Culture, the General Guide Monari and Blom Compagnia Generale Ripreseaeree, a leader in Italy for remote sensing. While technology partners are the National Research Council, the University of Pisa, the Internet Memory Foundation, and Dell, while Here, a business unit of Nokia, will provide istella maps and mapping services in general, services that are not limited to geolocation but also allow you to “discover and explore the context of places“, also making comparisons to “understand the change in our city over time,” says Soru (the same piece of land can be seen in its evolution over the years).
Then there is the sharing of user content that is something new respect to other search engines. Because “every man is an encyclopedia”, says Soru quoting Italian writer Italo Calvino. Each user will have the opportunity through the feature “contribute” (after registration) to publish their documents. Using the “share” instead will bring together images, videos and audio of common interest. The materials provided by users will be indexed by the engine, and everybody can become a “follower” of other users, asking to be notified each time they put new content on the Web. Therefore, each user will have their own “digital library “, that if he/she will be able to share in the shelves. There is no preventive control over the content of users, but Soru has ensured the utmost attention to reports on violations of copyright or other laws.