European linguist and hacker Fjalar Ravia, better known as Fravia, died of cancer on Sunday the third of May, aged 57. He was best known for his papers on reverse engineering techniques, influencing people like Jon Lech Johansen of DeCSS-fame.

Combing the web

According to the (very) short obituary on Wikipedia, he devoted his later years to “searching the web further than by traditional ways”. This piqued my interest, so I went and had a look at Web Searchlores, his one-stop resource for all things search. With titles like How to access and exploit the shallow deep web and How to search the web - volume, diameter and structure, his papers are not for the faint of heart.

Fravia prefers his own terminology (deep web, seeker), and has a rather hypertextual way of reasoning and writing. If you’ve ever played 3D Chess, you’ll know the kind of fun that awaits you. That’s not to say his train of thoughts are without value. His essay on Combing the web (searching those that have already searched) might very well become the basis for future search engines. Who knows? Come to think of it, “search your buddy’s history list” sounds like prime material for Google Labs' next Beta offering. But let’s not end this on a negative note. Let’s end it with Fravia’s “Ode to the seeker”:

Ode to the seeker
Like a skilled native, the able seeker has become part of the web. He knows the smell of his forest: the foul-smelling mud of the popups, the slime of a rotting commercial javascript. He knows the sounds of the web: the gentle rustling of the jpgs, the cries of the brightly colored mp3s that chase one another among the trees, singing as they go; the dark snuffling of the m4as, the mechanical, monotone clanking of the huge, blind databases, the pathetic cry of the common user: a plaintive cooing that slides from one useless page down to the next until it dies away in a sad, little moan.

In fact, to all those who do not understand it, today’s Internet looks more and more like a closed, hostile and terribly boring commercial world. Yet if you stop and hear attentively, you may be able to hear the seekers, deep into the shadows, singing a lusty chorus of praise to this wonderful world of theirs – a world that gives them everything they want. The web is the habitat of the seeker, and in return for his knowledge and skill it satisfies all his needs.