Quaero News

Apparently German media giant Bertelsmann will head the Franco-German Google killer, Quaero. Good f'ing luck, boys. Apparently France is kicking in 150mm euros, and Germany a similar amount. Memo to Europe: Google's annual capex is approaching $1 billion US. Anyway. PS – Might start spending that $300mm on buying…

Apparently German media giant Bertelsmann will head the Franco-German Google killer, Quaero. Good f’ing luck, boys. Apparently France is kicking in 150mm euros, and Germany a similar amount. Memo to Europe: Google’s annual capex is approaching $1 billion US. Anyway.

PS – Might start spending that $300mm on buying the rights to http://quaero.com/.….

Author: John Battelle

A founder of NewCo (current CEO), sovrn (Chair), Federated Media, Web 2 Summit, The Industry Standard, Wired. Author, investor, board member (Acxiom, Sovrn, NewCo), bike rider, yoga practitioner.

21 thoughts on “Quaero News”

  1. SNL had a sequence on it in Weekend update. something like “Quaero.com you type in the name and it refuses to answer” in a french accent.

  2. But Google has big business overheads also. 300Mil Euro is an R&D budget not to be sniffed at.

    When we did our internal ‘what might happen in 2006’ predictions one of the team suggested possibly:

    UK Government funds public search engine. It’s under funded and misunderstood and sadly goes the way of our space programme.

    If so it looks like we’ll probably end up using the French one then…


  3. Where-o is Quaero? I can’t find any site and as you note they might consider a name that’s not ALREADY TAKEN!

    Of course Google may be concerned simply because more centrally controlled systems like the EEC and/or Japan, Korea, China may all decide to work towards forcing or subsidizing use of a Governmental or monopoly search tool. Seems like all these guys may be negotiating now saying “hey, allow ONLY OUR search in China and we’ll give you most of the China search revenue).

  4. Wow kids. And I thought we were all friends. One thing, it turns out you don’t have to put other people down to make yourself feel good.

    What percent of Google’s $1B R&D budget goes to search? A lot, of course, but much also goes to mail,talk,20% time,etc,etc. Why you wouldn’t take anyone willing to spend $300M on any problem seriously baffles me. Or have you totally moved into the Google is unbeatable mode? By Google’s own admission only the surface of search has been scratched. Assuming that this project focuses it’s efforts on new work and not duplication I see this as a great win for all of us. EU taxpayers will be funding great new research that all of us benefit from. I’ll happily take that any day.

  5. I’ll spare us the healthcare debate and assume you’re talking about technology/media only. Here in the UK the BBC competes pretty nicely in the news world (both on and offline).

  6. I think it’d be a good idea if germany and france build some useful search technology adn then license it for very cheap to select for profit companies that would turn the thing into a real product and some good marketing.

    John raises a good point that companies are better than governments at competing in a free market. That’s the whole idea of privatization.

  7. I think it’d be a good idea if Germany and France build some useful search technology adn then license it for very cheap to a bunch of for profit companies that would turn the thing into a real product with an appropriate marketing strategy.

    John raises a good point. Companies are better than governments at competing in a free market. That’s the whole idea behind privatization.

  8. Teoma was also billed as the Google Killer as well as Wisenut and MSN – :LOL (do a Google Search for “google killer” and look at the SERPs-graveyard)

    It is one thing to use the Buzzword “Google Killer” – what another to explain what new innovative Algos are going to be used that the Majors have NOT already considered!!

    Since Link Popularity and Click Popularity have been progammed as far as they can go…

    The only other evolution would be Relevant Concept Search Technology or/and Latent Semantic Indexing ….

    But, whoever tries that feat would require MASSIVE processing power – and production that would approximate the SPEED of returned-results that Google now offers.

  9. I think a government funded effort might succeed very well in a free market world, if there is some sort of problem with that market.

    I would hardly call online search a “market failure” at this point, especially since everyone is making so much money right now. But there is one definite area that the major search engines have failed at: Relevance feedback.

    The idea is that, while looking at the top 10 documents, you give an up vote to the documents that are closer/more near to what you are looking for, and a down vote to things that you don’t want at all.

    E.g.: If your query is “mustang”, and you’re interested in horses, you would give an up vote to all the horse pages, and a down vote to all the car and gun pages. You’d then click “re-search”, and the search engine would use your feedback to narrow down the true types of pages you were looking for, until you found information on horses that really looked good.

    This technique has been known in the information retrieval field for decades now, and yet I still cannot use it on G, Y, or M. Why not? With all this talk about the Database of Intentions, and Personalization of your search experience, what better way to accomplish it than with a relevance feedback mechanism?

    My own personal “conspiracy” theory is that if users had more mechanisms and interfaces like this, they might actually spend time using them, and find what they needed in the organic results. Since these mechanisms don’t exist, users are more likely to click on a paid advertisement on the front page, than scroll down through dozens of pages of guns and cars mixed in with horses. With no way of allowing me, the user, to separate out the types of pages I’m looking for, it becomes much easier for me just to click on something that makes money for the search engine.

    So there is a direct economic incentive for GYM not to innovate in an area like this. There is demand for the product (I would use it, if it were available), but the market has failed to produce the product. Though I’m hardly my own market, I have to imagine that there are more folks like me. So in a way, that is a market failure. Innovation stands in direct opposition to profit.

    So if a government search engine were to step in, and provide a service like this, I think it would be quite a good thing. I would either have a relevance feedback service that I could use, from that govt. source, or it would force GYM to start doing the same, even if fewer users click on their ads. Either way, the govt. action might very well restore competitiveness to the marketplace, where now there does not appear to be any.

  10. This is exciting news! I’m surprised by your reaction Batelle: time to step away from the Google one track juice.

    Haven’t we learned over and over that you cannot buy ideas: look at Microsoft’s cash horde.

    Google and Yahoo may indeed find a challenger from outside the US. Great development.

  11. I’m also a little bit suspicious of government efforts like this one, but Google has ignored large parts of the world and the search space is “up for grabs” in some markets using simple innovations involving linguistics and other language and region specific things that can dramatically improve local search.

    My company has done this for our tiny little market in Iceland, but there are similar opportunities in other European markets (and probably all over the world).

    This fight will not be won with sheer money, but with smart innovations and dedication and understanding of the fact that the rest-of-the-world is a pretty a big market. Europe in fact counts more people than the USA and the market here grows a lot faster. Spending 300 million dollars on a French search engine is a pretty high amount “per capita”.

    One size doesn’t fit all and search engines need to pay attention to the details of local markets. Google in fact sometimes does exactly the opposite – some of their services are hard or even impossible to access from outside the US. The new Google Video Store is a good – but far from the only – example.

  12. yeah, I agree with Ray: Boeing is just as ‘socialist’ – I know it’s a bad word on your side of the ocean, Perry – as Airbus. However, what we are trying to debate here is whether Quaero stands a chance of ever being nearly as successful as Airbus. I doubt it. For starters, German media giant Bertelsmann has burned through as much money if not more for Lycos Europe which has been… well, let us say hardly a great success πŸ˜€

  13. One of the secrets of Google’s success is its utter lack of old-world baggage. It’s been a purebred Internet company from day one.

    Bertelsmann lacks that edge.

  14. I agree the above posts that cash is nothing compared to what good ideas and open standards can accomplish.

    I see that the new era in search would involve a variety of distributed indexes to be available to searchers.

    This Peer to Peer network of repositories would allow many organizations to process and summarize the data in any way they wished.

    One interesting thing is that the founders of Google themselves ‘were’ advocates of distributing indexing, here is a quote from their research paper, 2nd to last paragraph.

    Of course a distributed systems like Gloss [Gravano 94] or Harvest will often be the most efficient and elegant technical solution for indexing, but it seems difficult to convince the world to use these systems because of the high administration costs of setting up large numbers of installations. Of course, it is quite likely that reducing the administration cost drastically is possible. If that happens, and everyone starts running a distributed indexing system, searching would certainly improve drastically.

    -Sergey Brin and Lawrence “PageRank” Page

    My blog regarding my take on this, is at


    Let me know if you have any feedback, I’m still working on some more declared weaknesses of the current status quo, and building a list of early adopters and ways to evangelize the initiative.


    Matt Robson


    (this site is sometimes down)

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