Private search engine Blippex turns to WebRTC to guarantee surfers’ anonymity

Blippex, the new search engine that launched in July, is all about privacy — OK, mostly about privacy, as it’s also playing around with an intriguing architecture that’s designed to rank results based on the time users spend on a page and the amount they interact with it.

The German outfit’s “DwellRank” technology is based on a browser plugin that monitors users’ surfing. Now, founders Max Kossatz and Gerald Bäck (pictured above) have said from the get-go that they only collect URL and time data, not IP addresses. However, as I pointed out at the service’s launch, Blippex’s lack of a business model was enough to make the discerning user a bit wary – might things not change down the line when that business model materializes?

Blippex heard those concerns, and now it’s answered them: on Friday the company said it had introduced a new peer-to-peer anonymizing feature in its Chrome browser extension that makes sure the company cannot record IP addresses. Why just Chrome(s goog)? Because the feature makes rather clever use of the new WebRTC real-time communications technology that Google is so enthusiastically pushing. Mozilla also supports WebRTC, so that’s next. No Opera nor Safari for now.

Blippex’s anonymization technique uses the PeerJS wrapper to bounce the surfing data through a chain of peers. The chain is of unpredictable length, and the URL and time information is encrypted so no-one in the chain can spy on it.

For a fuller explanation of how this works, check out Blippex’s blog post. And in case you’re wondering how many potential peers we’re talking about, Kossatz and Bäck said they have around 50,000 daily visits now, with probably 30-40 percent using Chrome (that’s a guess – Blippex doesn’t track uniques nor plugin installations).

Incidentally, Blippex is seeing half a million searches a day – that’s 10 times as many as when we last checked in with them in late July.