Volunia, Italy’s Answer to Google

Article by  Giovanni Caprara, originally published in Corrieredellasera.it on 7th February 2012.

PADUA – “Volunia, the new all-Italian search engine can now fly us all to freedom”. Creator Massimo Marchiori, 41, is delighted that Volunia’s moment has come after three years of hard work, hoop jumping and triumphant tests. Marchiori is quick to point out: “This is not a Google buster. We’ve only just started. However, the possibilities are enormous and far superior to those on offer from Google. With Volunia, it will be possible to search for something and also to meet other people who are searching. That’s why we have called it Seek & Meet.

THE STORY – Massimo Marchiori created the algorithm that Larry Page used to build Google. Spurning the siren song of America, he returned to Italy from MIT in Boston, where he was working, to seek out new opportunities in the land of his birth. The precise opposite of the path usually taken by young Italians. Following a spell as a researcher at the University of Venice, Marchiori was appointed professor at Padua, and at the alma mater where Galileo founded modern science, he hosted a webcast today to present his new creature, Volunia.

VOLUNIA – “I called it Volunia, from the Italian words for flying and moon, because I wanted to evoke the quantum leap my social search engine delivers”, Marchiori enthuses. The site has been operational since Monday afternoon and you can now register to browse. Marchiori assures us that the engine will be opened to all users next week, after a few days of necessary tweaking. In practical terms, the search engine offers two main features. When you enter any website, a toolbar gives you a range of options. The first is to create a personal map of the site with all its sections, “overflying the content” as Marchiori puts it. There’s also a “media” button that gives you an instant display of multimedia content to speed up your search. Another major innovation is the social box.

SOCIAL BOX – You can see how many other people are browsing, or have browsed, the site you are visiting but the biggest innovation is that you can contact them directly. “It’s a fantastic way to make friends with people that share your interests. In other words, it’s a wonderful way to socialise”. Obviously, data protection is guaranteed. Volunia, which is already patented in the US, was created thanks to Marchiori’s ideas and programming skills, to financial support from Sardinian businessman Mariano Pierddu and to input from a small supercomputer company based at Scandiano near Florence.

TWELVE LANGUAGES – The search engine features twelve different languages but addresses the whole world while the expandable hardware is designed to cater for a global user base. Marchiori uses a metaphor. This is the year when laying hens will be liberated in the European Union because from 2012, they can no longer be kept in battery cages. He puts it like this: “You see thanks to Volunia, internet users will finally be able to get out of the web’s cramped cages and have more freedom to scratch about in the web’s endless possibilities”.

SIGNAL – Padua University’s rector Giuseppe Zaccaria notes: “It’s a very positive signal if Marchiori has chosen to come back to his town and university for a new challenge. We have nothing to fear from the rough and tumble of international exchange and we are ready to support him”. “We must at all costs save the excellent things we have if we want to make sure we have a future”, says Padua’s mayor, Flavio Zanonato. He is proud of his illustrious fellow townsman and also passionate about the moon and stars. Hence the name Volunia, “which was rated positive in the United States and taken to mean voluptuousness”.

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