iranian computer 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
It all began in the early 1990’s with Internet search engine startups like Excite, Galaxy, Lycos and Webcrawler.
Then Yahoo and Alta Vista moved in, followed only a few years later by what would become the neighborhood bully: Google.
Now Iran would like to introduce the new kid on the block...
Ladies and Gentelmen, please welcome ‘Oh Lord,’ a homegrown Iranian search engine sure to highlight very high resolution photos of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the regretful testimony of green movement opposition activists.
Hadi Malek-Parast, Director General for Research and Development at the
Iranian Information Technology Company, told the Iranian Mehr News
Agency on Sunday that Iran has started developing a national search
enginged dubbed ‘Ya Haq’, a Persian expression meaning “Oh Lord.”
Speaking of the need for faster search capacity and higher security for
the country’s online communications, Malek-Parast said Ya Haq would be
ready to launch in 2012 and referred to the project as a domestic
Intranet, as opposed to an international Internet.
“They are not just developing a search engine, they want to develop an
Intranet, instead of an Internet, which would be some kind of local
Internet and only give access to state institutions and internally
approved sites,” Pujan Ziaie, a senior IT strategist in Iran’s ‘green’
opposition movement told The Media Line. “The discussion began a few
years ago and is based on a feeling that the Internet is a Western
weapon. They are threatened by it but they cannot ignore it so they are
trying to imitate what China has done.”
“The problem,” Ziaie said,” is that the infrastructure, knowledge and
technicians are all not there to do this properly, at least not for the
next few years.”
Niusha Boghrati, an Iranian online journalist, argued that despite the
official reasoning, the Iranian Intranet would boost the government’s
“The official reasons they give for such a project is it’s cheap, faster
and more secure in terms of data,” he told The Media Line. “But they
are trying to replace Google and Yahoo and create a parallel Internet in
order to have more surveillance on the Internet users of Iran. They are
certain to follow this with a launch of a national email service.”
Boghrati said the announcement was a direct response to last year’s
unrest following the disputed reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud
“After the protests, the government tried very hard to curb online
communications,” he said. “But with these new secure formats that Google
and Yahoo have launched, it has become much more difficult for Iranian
intelligence to monitor civil society.”
Dr Mehrdad Khonsari, a former Iranian diplomat, now Senior Research
Consultant at the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies, argued that the
announcement should be seen in light of a larger Iranian attempt to
prove the country’s independence.
“There are two things going on,” he told The Media Line. “One is the
fact that they are anxious to be able to filter any electronic
communications in any conceivable way that they can, or at least to
scare people into believing they are capable of doing this, so that they
enter the process of self censorship. Another is to portray this image
that they are punching above their weight in trying to convince people
that they are able to do things that they are not.”
But a source close to the government, who asked not to be identified,
said the initiative was simply a matter of providing more locally
relevant content to Internet users.
“In different search enginges, different things come up first,” he told
The Media Line. “There’s a certain formula that makes certain things
come up first when you use Google whereas when you use Yahoo other
things come up first. In Iran, local websites do not appear first in the
results, meaning the suggested websites are not necessarily the most
valuable sources of information.”
“So I don’t see this as replacing the Internet or current search
engines,” he said. “In general the government is just trying to become
less and less reliant on Western sources for everything.”