Quaero v. Google (score to come)

Posted on June 21, 2006. Filed under: Politics |

Okay, so I may be a bit behind the times, but I’m catching up on reading the stack of Economists because I don’t want to move them to the new house. In the March 11th issue, there is a technology section, most of which isn’t new, but there is an interesting article titled “Attack of the Eurogoogle”. Apparently Jacque Chirac and Gerhard Schröder have a plan for a government-backed search engine and say: “it’s beyond google”.

Now perhaps it’s just because I’ve grown up in a grant-based country where most government-backed programs are a laugh (or when the government has something with potential, they abandon it – Avro Arrow anyone?), but I’m a bit skeptical of a government-backed program going up against a market-based superpower. Sure, internet trends and search engines come and go, but as the article states, the reasons for producing such a product are politically and culturally valid and include:

“We must staunchly defend the world’s cultural diversity against the looming threat of uniformity” (Sure, having all of your eggs in one big google basket probably isn’t the best solution for the future of the internet – and at this rate, of the world).

“Our power is at stake” (This one may need to be clarified for me…how will this make France and Germany more powerful? Is it a secret political platform or plan for world domination?).

The search engine is called Quaero (latin for “I seek”) – I’ll admit, that’s a cool name and it is capable of searching by not only keywords, but also by images and sounds. So you can match up images, which is kind of cool – and Quaero attaches tags (en francaise) to the images it finds that are similar to the search so that they can be searched for and found by other users. The voice search will have the ability to find and translate audio files…also pretty cool. If google isn’t already planning these sorts of options, then I’m sure they aren’t far off.

As an aside…do you know anyone who boycotts google based on political, cultural, or personal reasons? I was just thinking that it’s easy to take up a cause like buying only organic foods, or not buying clothes and shoes from Nike based on the reports of child labour etc., but does anyone think of google as a product? Or is it just a part of life now (a part that didn’t exist a few years ago, but is now so engrained that we would likely feel an intense shock to wake up one morning and it be gone).

In the end, it seems like a very noble cause and a fight against the new superpowers – which makes me wonder not only how Quaero will fare and what impact it may have, but also if the next set of wars won’t be over oil, or nuclear weapons, but a different technology: supremacy over the one thing that at this moment in time is a democratic model built on a strong belief in pluralism, but that is slowly changing into a valuable marketplace, a struggle for survival where lives are made and broken, and a mode of dependency for so many people, and thus will eventually be a new area to be coveted and through which power can be gained.

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