Professor donates database for new federal Web site
By Julia Sommer, College of Engineering



Eric Brewer
Bruce Cook photo

11 OCTOBER 00 | Eric Brewer, associate professor of computer science, has given an unusual gift to the federal government: a database that can handle searches of all the federal government's 100 million-plus Web pages, although Brewer expects requests for only about 30 million pages initially. The site went live Sept. 22.

Brewer built the site using search-engine technology he developed for Inktomi Corp., the Foster City company he co-founded with former graduate student Paul Gauthier.

Brewer proposed the idea to President Clinton when he met the president last January. As part of his first Webcast in June, President Clinton announced that the new portal, called FirstGov, would be "a single point of entry to one of the largest, perhaps the most useful collection of Web pages in the entire world."

The new Web site - - is part of a larger effort to develop a "high-speed, high-tech, user-friendly government," the president said.

Clinton pointed out that Brewer had developed one of the most successful Internet search technologies, with the help of government grants.

Inktomi, which makes sophisticated software for collecting, indexing and retrieving Web pages, sells its network and portal services to America Online, Lycos and Microsoft, and Yahoo!

At FirstGov, Brewer uses Inktomi's search technology to maintain updated copies of the government's Web pages, which will be stored on an expandable network of servers. Through such techniques as parallel searches and network caching, the portal service is ultra fast, capable of searching 500 million Web pages in a quarter of a second. The portal will be able to handle 100 million such searches daily, although the site will be designed for less for now, says Brewer.

The federal government has about 25,000 Web sites, and the number keeps growing.

"Citizens now are using government Web sites to file their taxes, compare their Medicare options, apply for student loans and find good jobs," Clinton noted in his Webcast.

Brewer's non-profit Federal Search Foundation will own and maintain the database initially. After two years the government will have the right of first refusal to purchase it.


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