Ten Blue Links on Mars

Charles L. A. Clarke, Gordon V. Cormack, Jimmy Lin, and Adam Roegiest

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Proceedings of
WWW 2017

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This paper explores a simple question: How would we provide a high-quality search experience on Mars, where the fundamental physical limit is speed-of-light propagation delays on the order of tens of minutes? On Earth, users are accustomed to nearly instantaneous responses from web services. Is it possible to overcome orders-of-magnitude longer latency to provide a tolerable user experience on Mars? In this paper, we formulate the searching from Mars problem as a tradeoff between "effort" (waiting for responses from Earth) and "data transfer" (pre-fetching or caching data on Mars). The contribution of our work is articulating this design space and presenting two case studies that explore the ectiveness of baseline techniques, using publicly available data from the TREC Total Recall and Sessions Tracks. We intend for this research problem to be aspirational as well as inspirational--even if one is not convinced by the premise of Mars colonization, there are Earth-based scenarios such as searching from rural villages in India that share similar constraints, thus making the problem worthy of exploration and attention from researchers.