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Quaeroless? Exalead CEO Says There'll Be No Quaero Site

By - April 27, 2006

No QuaeroWhat the hell is Quaero? Yesterday I had a chance to put that question to Francois Bourdoncle, CEO and co-founder of Exalead, a leading European enterprise search company (and partner in Quaero, whatever it turns out to be). It was a timely conversation, as French President Jacques Chirac announced a $2.5 billion initiative earlier this week, a major portion of which was earmarked for Quaero.

If all you had to go by was Google results, chances are you’d be confused in your search to figure out what Quaero was all about. Wikipedia has an entry (in French, of course). Other news outlets seem to think Quareo is in fact a real search engine – albeit one with a multimedia focus – under development by the French and German government in partnership with private European media conglomerates like Thompson, and smaller startups like Exalead.

That’s what I thought, and in response I said that it was a deeply dumb idea. But turns out, we were all responding to the wrong thing.

Sure, Chirac seems to think he’s funding a European competitor to Google, but it turns out, eh…not so much. Chirac “doesn’t even know what a mouse is,” Bourdoncle told me. (The Guardian today was even harsher, wondering if Chirac “had been sniffing a little too much camembert.”)

So what is he funding? Well, according to Bourdoncle, there will be no single Quaero site. Instead, Quaero is a program, a long term effort to spur various European competitors toward creating better search related technologies. Participants will share R&D, for example, as well as become each other’s customers. In other words, this is a government funded attempt at pulling together a keiretsu of sorts.

Not exactly a European Google killer, I commented. Nope, Bourdoncle responded, and attempting to do that would be a pretty stupid move. I couldn’t agree more. Sounds to me, I thought to myself, that Quaero is simply a way for huge companies like Thompson to insure a steady flow of dollars from its government, and if using the Big Google Is Going to Kill European Culture meme helps along the way, so be it. Before I could even mention that idea, Bourdoncle addressed it head on, saying he was sure folks might see it that way, and he was not one to say if it was true or not. “I’m not really sure what (Thompson’s) strategy is,” he said. “They don’t tell me that.” Sounds like the keiretsu is shaping up nicely, no?

Meanwhile, Farber has more on Bourdoncle and Exalead here. Seems this company is one to watch, even if Quaero isn’t….

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7 thoughts on “Quaeroless? Exalead CEO Says There'll Be No Quaero Site

  1. Bill says:


    I’m a frequent and enthusiastic reader of Searchblog, but pleeease could you get some new advertisers! I’m sick of looking at those MS dinosaurs and reading their lame conversations.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. The keiretsu angle is more on target than meets the eye. While Bourdoncle may indicate that Chirac doesn’t even know what a mouse is, I’d bet that Chirac remembers Minitel. Chirac is pushing forward on a variety of fronts on initiatives that diminish the role of the U.S. on the fronts of Internet communication (English as the language of choice), command (taxation), control (who controls the Internet), and intelligence (technologies like Google that organize the world’s knowledge). Hm. C3I. Ring any bells?

  3. Luc says:

    Hi John,

    I’m a frequent reader of your blog, and thank you for the great work you do!

    I think one of the reasons Chirac is pushing this project is also because the information search engines can store on their users is extremely valuable. I believe this is not about save-european-culture from evil-american-imperialism but much rather about trying to get european companies get some of that information somehow, although it is not necessarily the message PR is giving. Sure posing as the “European culture champion” is a much better political choice for Chirac, but his real intent probably is about security, economy, and social issues .


  4. steph says:

    “Chirac “doesn’t even know what a mouse is,” Bourdoncle told me.”

    This is 100% TRUE, or at least it was some years ago.
    President Chirac was at an inauguration, some guy told him “President click with the mouse”. Chirac, with dumb face, asked “C’est quoi une souris? C’est le mulot” (“What’s a mouse? Is it this apodemus?)
    Of course, TV was here, and the event was broadcasted. 🙂

  5. PhoenixP3K says:

    Back when I first heard about the project I was clearly informed that Quaero was just a code name. So what if the guy doesn’t know what a mouse is, the development team he’s paying does. Besides nobody is trying to create a Google competitor, just like Google brought a new way to make search on the Web those are the goal of Quaero project. So from what I heard this as nothing to do with a Google killer it’s a complement, alternative not replacement.

  6. NilsR says:

    Loic Le Meur has some other thoughts on the aim of the Quaero project:

    Quaero: 10 reasons why the French search engine will fail.

  7. Moos says:

    I agree with Loic Le Meur and I would like to add that the exalead search engine project is as wak as quaero.