I wrote a post about three months ago which discussed the potential of new search engine challengers. One of those I mentioned, Quaero, was purported as a grand new search engine scheme from the French and German governments.
Based on more recent news, specifically, an interview with Francois Bourdoncle by John Batelle, it appears that Quaero is not, in fact, a search engine at all.
The research goal of the program is certainly geared strongly towards search technologies, but there is no search engine in the works. It’s unclear what Jacques Chirac thought he was funding – Bourdoncle states, at one point, that Chirac "doesn’t even know what a mouse is".
As much as more research into effective search technologies is a fine thing, I’m not sure that this influx of government money into the pot is actually going to be beneficial for anybody except the research and development departments of the companies involved. Still, you never know whether the next major innovation will come from an 18 year old college kid’s dormitory or from a heavily government funded corporation.
There are certainly individuals who feel this is a scam on the part of the companies. A bit of clever political machination and they receive a hefty influx of cash.
Personally, I suspect that it’s more than just a "boondoggle" – the world is justifiably concerned by the fact that American companies have a near monopoly on world search. The best way to overtake this dominance is to do the research and try and develop the "next big thing". It might very well take something truly unique and valuable to overthrow the big three of search!