French President, Jacques Chirac has reinforced the development of a eurocentric search engine, baptised ‘Quaero’ from the Latin, by committing France’s new innovation agency to developing a Franco-German search engine to compete with the ‘Americans’. This makes the development one with teeth and money behind it.
Does it have a chance of competing with the power of Google-Yahoo-MSN? Even if it does, the question arises, why not directly support other home grown developments in the field such as Seekport in Germany or Voila in France. Surely, that would be a wiser way to invest public money – although it should be noted that Exalead of France are involved in the project. Nevertheless, Google, Yahoo and MSN may find less co-operation from the French and German establishments in future.
Alternately, the search engine might use an existing index owned by an American company? Strange idea, you may say. But that’s what BBC.co.uk does and it was praised by a parliamentary committee for offering a non-commercial alternative to the US engines. The BBC uses Inktomi, which belongs to Yahoo, for it’s index.
The key issue here appears to be one of control. France and Germany want to control and protect their culture and investing in a solely private organisation always runs the risk of someone (eg Google) with lots of money going ahead and buying the operation. The search engine will have to remain under Government ownership or Government control – whichever of those the new issue of censorship then becomes the question. It’s a thorny subject.
A clever idea might be for an American Google competitor (less dominant than Google in other words) to sign-up to create a European search engine on their behalf – now that would throw the cat amongst the pigeons.
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