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French Googleslayer gets the green light

No longer Chirac's pet project

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The European Commission this week approved the aid of €99m to France with the aim to build a Google killer called QUAERO. The project leaders promise an advanced multimedia search engine and tools for translating, identifying and indexing images, sound and text.

QUAERO - Latin for "I search" - was launched as part of the work carried out by the Franco-German economic cooperation task force in 2004, but met with fierce criticism. Some experts called the plan "a blatant case of misguided and unnecessary nationalism" and a pet project of (former) French president Jacques Chirac, who often spoke of the need to "take up the global challenge posed by Google and Yahoo!".

The Franco-German attempt to counter American-based search giants Google and Yahoo! soon began to fall apart over strategic differences. Germany left the project to develop Theseus, another prominent €120m search engine backed by Siemens, Bertelsmann and its subsidiary EMPOLIS. Apparently, the Germans weren’t too thrilled with the idea of a multimedia search engine.

QUAERO will ultimately enable Thomson - the electronics manufacturer and media services provider headquartered in Boulogne-Billancourt, near Paris - to enhance its commercial range of Internet protocol audiovisual content distribution platforms such as IPTV and video-on-demand, and of digital multimedia content management systems. Following an in-depth examination, the Commission takes the view that the project "brings positive externalities for the community as a whole".

The QUAERO website will re-open on Monday. However, a spokesperson in Paris told The Register that it will only contain information, not an early version of the search engine: “We haven't done much in the past two years, to be honest." The project is supposed to last five years. ®

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