Quaero: Chirac's Waterloo

Here’s a colorful story I stumbled into on Diplomatic Traffic bashing France’s Jacques Chirac for the failure of Quaero, which I’ve written about previously and characterized as the Airbus of Search.

Germany’s recent bail-out from the Quaero project, detailed in an excellent IHT article here, appears to have been driven by a basic disagreement about design goals. From the IHT:

“But according to one French participant, organizers disagreed over the fundamental design of Quaero, with French participants favoring a sophisticated search engine that could sift audio, video and other multimedia data, while German participants favored a next- generation text-based search engine.”

Again from the IHT:

“‘When you look at the offerings of search engines out there on the market already, one has to question the wisdom of spending a lot of money to construct yet another search machine and try to compete with Google,’ said Ulrich Trabert, a software analyst in Frankfurt at Bankhaus Metzler, a private bank.”

Indeed.

Pandia has excellent coverage of the story, here, discussing Europe’s own Fast Search & Transfer. From Pandia:

It should also be noted that there is no need for a European inferiority complex in the search engine arena. Norwegian Fast Search Transfer actually did develop a search engine delivering search results of a quality close or equal to Google’s called AlltheWeb. Unfortunately Fast found it hard to make AlltheWeb commercially successful and sold AlltheWeb to Yahoo!

Fast is now working on their own European-supported project, called Pharos (Platform for Search of Audiovisual Resources Across Online Spaces) focused on next-generation audiovisual search.

But the real fun relates to the story I first cited on the Diplomatic Traffic, which begins with:

“At the Musée National in Versailles something odd reportedly occurred in a chamber holding the fading tableau of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Austerlitz. On a recent nighttime visit there by President Chirac, to find inspiration, he exclaimed that he heard sobbing and the repeated snarling of ‘The search wars have only just begun! Learn from my blunders!'”

Check out the story itself for more fun.

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