Missing MH370: Million of Internet users help search

The continuing search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane is a massive effort involving 14 countries, 43 ships and 58 aircraft.

But unknown to many, anonymous people have also been looking for the plane that had 239 passengers on board.

Not one or two, but about 2.3 million ordinary Internet users, The Guardian reported.

These users have logged on to the Tomnod website to scan more than 24,000 sq km of satellite imagery to help locate the jet.

Tomnod is run by commercial satellite company DigitalGlobe based in Colorado, US.

Soon after the plane went missing, the company repositioned two of its five satellites over its last known location in the Gulf of Thailand, and have since moved them as the search headed west.

How do ordinary Internet users help in such a complex operation stretching hundreds of thousands of miles of ocean?

Tomnod users are provided with a randomly chosen map from the search area and are told to earmark the area where they see any signs of the crash like wreckage, oil slick or life rafts.

An algorithm then finds where there is overlap in tags from people who tagged the same location, and the most notable areas are shared with authorities.

A Tomnod spokesman told The Guardian that as of Thursday, every pixel had been looked at by human eyes at least 30 times.

Despite the massive online search party, nobody has come up with any evidence that can be considered remotely reliable.

But that has not stopped millions of people pouring over hundreds of maps. And they have tagged over 745,000 images they believe could lead to clues to the missing plane, the report said.

Numerous Facebook groups have been set up with members from around the world posting and discussing screenshots of satellite imagery around the clock.

Mr Mike Seberger, a project manager in the US, is part of the "search party". His screenshot of a "jet-shaped object" went viral on Tuesday.

But on close examination it was confirmed to be the image of a boat.

So why is he continuing the search for the plane?

He told The Guardian: "Initially I felt really excited because my image so closely resembled the scale and shape of a 777-200. It was in that excited mindset that I wrote the CNN iReport hoping to get someone to examine it."

He said he even had people claiming to be aerospace engineers e-mailing him data supporting the photo being a match for the plane.

But after thinking it through more logically, he said, it made sense to be a boat, unless his satellite image was captured while the plane was floating. That made no sense because of the time gap, he said.

Said Mr Seberger: "People just want to help, are intrigued by the mystery and the technology makes it easy for someone local or across the world to pitch into that effort.

"Honestly, I've been able to spend only a couple of hours in total on Tomnod, because I have other commitments. And most often when I visit, the site is apparently overloaded with traffic, as pages won't load or function properly.

"In a way, I view that as a good thing because that means lots of others are probably in there working to review images, even if I can't access them."

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