It’s difficult to rein in skepticism when faced with a new search engine, but the mysterious Volunia tempers that reaction by having an interesting pedigree. It was developed by Massimo Marchiori, who among other achievements created HyperSearch, the precursor to Google’s PageRank.

Volunia hasn’t launched yet, but it will be available in 12 languages when it does. That’s just about all Marchiori is disclosing. Otherwise he sticks to enthusiastic promises like, “It’s not just Google plus 10 percent.”

In fact, Volunia is not trying to challenge Google at all. “It would not make sense to challenge a giant,” he told La Repubblica. “It’s something different.”

At the moment he’s focused on attracting beta users and is inviting people to register on the service’s site. People who are selected will have exclusive access to Volunia, along with a direct feedback channel to Marchiori and the rest of the development team. “Waiting for critical mass of testers (world-wide coverage) to start the test… please spread the word, fellow voluniers,” reads a post on Volunia’s Facebook page.

Volunia also has an explanatory video (below) that doesn’t shed any more light. It shows Marchiori on a park bench with a whiteboard that he barely uses, and he shares thoughts like: “It’s a different perspective. It’s a new radical view of what a search engine of the future could be.”

His reticence is due to concerns that Google or a similarly well-financed company could marshal its resources and beat Volunia to market, according to an interview in Italy’s Corriere della Sera.

Marchiori is on the board of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), has co-authored the XQuery standard, and has made significant contributions to the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) and the Web Ontology Language (OWL). He is professor in Computer Science at the University of Padua, and Research Scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL)

Related links:

Search Engine Watch – Volunia Search Engine: A ‘Radical New View’ of Search

PC World – Google’s Search Algorithm Challenged

Corriere della Sera – Marchiori inventa il Google italiano

La Repubblica – Un progetto italiano il Google del futuro