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Germany bows out of European 'Google killer'

Quaero to become solely a French project; meanwhile, European Commission promises cash to a different search project.

Quaero, the pan-European search effort intended to rival Google, has seen the German government withdraw its support. At the same time, the EC has promised $11.05 million to a rival local search project, Pharos.

The German government cited differences over the technological direction of the project for its withdrawal less than two years after the Quaero project kicked off. It has decided to follow its own search path, Hartmut Schauerte, a secretary of state attached to the German Economics Ministry, said recently.

Quaero--intended by the French as a multimedia search engine focused on indexing photos and videos--will now become a solely French project. It will be led by Thomson with the support of a number of entities: Arvato; startup Exalead; and France Telecom, or LTU Technologies. It will receive assistance from the INA (the National Institute of the Audiovisual) and research institute Inria.

The German government will now concentrate on its own search effort, named Theseus. Theseus will focus on semantic research, which aims to understand the context of a search request.

A French businessman involved with the Quaero project told French daily newspaper Liberation: "Quaero has never been a Franco-German project except in the head of the politicians. We saw the Germans once for a meeting, and that's all."

Since Germany's decision to exit Quaero in late December, the European Commission has awarded $10.4 million to another search project, called Pharos.

Pharos will be a platform for search of audiovisual resources across online spaces, led by Fast, a Norwegian search software company. It will be both privately and publicly financed, and it has recently been awarded $11.05 million by the European Commission.

Thirteen partners from nine countries--Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the U.K.--will be involved in the project.

Estelle Dumout of ZDNet France reported from Paris. Jo Best of reported from London.