Chirac to compete with Google
French president Jacques Chirac has whole-heartedly lent his support to a Franco-German attempt to create a European multimedia search engine on the Internet, aimed at competing with US Internet giants such as Google.
In a New Year speech to the nation late last week, Mr Chirac described "Project Quaero" as a much-needed answer to the global challenge posed by American dominance on the Internet.
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"We must meet the global challenge of the American giants Google and Yahoo," Mr Chirac said about the future search engine, already dubbed by media as Mr Chirac's "pet project".
"Today the new geography of knowledge and cultures is being drawn. Tomorrow, that which is not available online runs the risk of being invisible to the world," he continued according to press reports.
The word "Quaero" means "I seek" in Latin, and was chosen to name the project to avoid offending either German or French speakers.
Setting up a European Google-style engine is also part of a broader French and German plan to lift up the old continent to US and Japanese research and development levels.
The creators of Quaero say it will not just be a compelling alternative to Google as a search engine, but a set of tools for translating, identifying and indexing images, sound and text.
The initiative will be funded by both government and private entities in France and Germany, with the French contribution of 150 million euro coming from the newly established Agency for Industrial Innovation.
The firm Thomson is expected to lead the French side, while the German counterpart Bertelsmann is reported to be Germany's main player.
The project, for which interest has risen dramatically after president Chirac’s official adoption, has been both praised and ridiculed over the last few days.
"There is already a good French search engine - it's called Google.fr," commentators on the Internet joke, writes the Financial Times.
The French satirical newspaper Le Canard enchaîné has also ridiculed Quaero:
"Compared with Microsoft's €30bn profits or Google's €100bn capitalisation, Chirac's announcement is really going to spread panic in Silicon Valley."