Europe's Quaero Project Fixes Sights on Google

10 March 2006

Worried at US hegemony in the global information market, French and German cyber-academics intend to develop a Eurocentric alternative to dominant internet search engine, Google.

How Google arrived at its currently unassailable position - it commands approximately 85% of the world search engine market - is a matter for historians. It is arguable that, almost by accident, the dudes from Stanford University captured the zeitgeist of the times before being ingested into the maw of corporatism.

Be that as it may, many Europeans (and Americans) see its current dominance as unhealthy, even dangerous. Wolfgang Sander-Beuermann, head of the search-engine research lab at the University of Hanover is one such Google-skeptic.

He warns: "Google is on the way to becoming the most global media power that ever existed on earth, and the potential for misusing it is so enormous it cannot be accepted."

To this end Sander-Beuermann recently founded the nonprofit Association for the Promotion of Search Engine Technology and Free Access to Knowledge.

No lesser person than French president Jacques Chirac agrees with him. In his New Year address to the nation, Chirac urged: "We must take up the challenge presented by American giants like Google and Yahoo. There is a the threat that tomorrow, what is not available online will be invisible to the world."

Chirac's gauntlet has been picked up by French government-supported internet information company, which now leads a search engine project branded Quaero (Latin for "I seek").

Quaero is also backed by agreements with German meta-search engine,, and exalead, while industrial giants such as Siemens and Bertelsmann, with German public broadcaster ARD are considering involvement in the project.

According to Sander-Beuermann: "Access to the online economy, and being part of the whole information society" is at stake. "It is helpful to the search-engine optimizing companies that there is only one search engine that has to be cheated," he said.

As an example of Google's corruptive influence on the presentation of information, lecturer in computer science at the University of Kaiserslautern and Quaero activist, Hendrik Speck cites the example of searching for the keyword "Troy" on Google.

"We all know that keyword has a rich cultural history. But at Google, most of the first results are a description of a second-class Hollywood production featuring a third-rate actor," Speck said, referring to the movie starring Brad Pitt.

Data sourced from DW-World (Germany); additional content by WARC staff