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Government Sponsored Search Engines. What’s The Point?

Government Sponsored Search Engines. What’s The Point?

So the IHT reports that Germany has quit a search project that would see a European search engine built that would rival Google. While the search engine, named “Quaero”, was initially to have investments from France, Germany and Italy in the billion-dollar range, disagreements have led to Germany pulling out altogether. Of course, what’s baffling to me is why a government would want to create a search engine at all.

That is, its puzzling that any government would want to create something top down that fundamentally is grown from the bottom up. Most, if not all software, has some level of grassroots initiative. As odd as it sounds to write this, citizens create software — not governments. At least, successful ones do in the context of market driven economies.

The entire web2.0 paradigm (and 1.0 even) is that low to no cost tools have allowed anyone with programming skills and a good idea to stake a claim on the turf that is the Internet. Eventually, the market will decide which outfits are suitable, and those will be the ones that will succeed by virtue of the traffic, attention, and (hopefully) life-sustaining profits it makes.

One prominent software engineer agrees.

“In Germany I think there was also resistance to the idea of a top-down project driven by governments,” said Andreas Zeller, chairman of software engineering at the University of Saarland in Saarbrücken, Germany, which supplied advisors to Quaero. “Success in the end is something that can’t be planned but is something that begets itself.”

If Europeans want to create a European search engine, that’s fine — and there’s probably a market for that. However, even with a discussion about the appropriateness of government spending on this kind of project aside (could that money be put to better use?), I just have to question the efficiency and efficacy of such a project. Instead of creating a single search engine that may or may not survive based on arbitrary criteria and objectives, why not create a marketplace for such ideas to flourish — and let its European netizens vote for which search outfit is the best with its clicks?

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After all, the Web2.0 phenomena is truly global, and some of its greatest successes are not in Silicon Valley at all (although they are marketed there). Netvibes has its roots in France. is based in London, England. CoComment has its base in Switzerland. And Firefox’s “killer app” AllPeers lives in the Czech Republic.

Government mandated web software is a bit peculiar, and I wonder if such a top-down method to creating software could ever exist in a world economy. Furthermore, I wonder if its a particularly European phemomenon. I’m not sure if I’d ever see the Canadian government spend billions of dollars on creating web software, for example. But if they did, I wouldn’t be all that surprised with the way they tend to spend tax payer dollars these days.

View Comments (2)
  • I did recall a company building a European search engine to rival Google in email, search and news (called

    Unfortunately, it did not overtake Google, but rather copied everything they did.

    So much for promoting European innovation.


    Europeans citizens need to develop the technology themselves, not government institutions (who should use the money for necessary items such as feeding the poor, space, etc.).

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