A distributed computer database system including one or more front end computers and one or more computer nodes interconnected by a network into a search engine for retrieval of objects including images, sound and video streams, as well as plain and structured text. A query is an object in the same format as the objects to be retrieved. A query from a user is transmitted to one of the front end computers which forwards the query to one of the computer nodes, termed the home node, of the search engine. The home node extracts features from the query and hashes these features. Each hashed feature is transmitted to one node on the network. Each node on the network which receives a hashed feature uses the hashed feature of the query to perform a search on its respective partition of the database. The results of the searches of the local databases are gathered by the home node.

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