Supporting Interoperability Between Open-Source Search Engines with the Common Index File Format


There exists a natural tension between encouraging a diverse ecosystem of open-source search engines and supporting fair, replicable comparisons across those systems. To balance these two goals, we examine two approaches to providing interoperability between the inverted indexes of several systems. The first takes advantage of internal abstractions around index structures and building wrappers that allow one system to directly read the indexes of another. The second involves sharing indexes across systems via a data exchange specification that we have developed, called the Common Index File Format (CIFF). We demonstrate the first approach with the Java systems Anserini and Terrier, and the second approach with Anserini, JASS, OldDog, PISA, and Terrier. Together, these systems provide a wide range of implementations and features, with different research goals. Overall, we recommend CIFF as a low-effort approach to support independent innovation while enabling the types of fair evaluations that are critical for driving the field forward.

Proceedings of the 43rd International ACM Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval (SIGIR 2020)