European Search Engine Alliance To Challenge Google

Search: dominated by the US

Not only is the search engine industry dominated by Google - most searches done world wide today are done by one of the three giants: Google, Yahoo! and MSN, all American companies.

It is not that the Europeans haven’t contributed to search engine development. Yahoo’s search engine is for instance partly based on the AlltheWeb search engine, developed by — and bought from – the Norwegian search engine company Fast Search & Transfer.

Read on to learn about Fast’s new alliance and their ambitious plans for web search innovation.

French and Scandinavian search engines

2004 saw the birth of a new French search engine, Exalead, which has an English language version covering the whole world. In a short time the French will also launch a new multimedia search engine called Quaero.

However, the Northern Euorpeans are not resting on their laurels. Scandinavians are some of the most extreme users of advanced information technology in the world, and most of them are very familiar with the Internet. This means that information- and communication companies as well as media conglomerates are looking for new ways of making money. The success of Google has proved that search is one of them.

Fast Search & Transfer, the Norwegian company behind AlltheWeb is alive and kicking, although it has shifted its focus to enterprise search tools (i.e. search technologies for company databases, intranets and web sites).

Still, as Pandia reported last November Fast is slowly moving back into the web search arena. The company has, for instance, provided the technology behind the new Norwegian search engine.

Norwegian Schibsted, one of Scandinavia’s leading media companies, owns Sesam. Schibsted owns several newspapers and web sites in Europe.

The Information Access Disruptions (iAd) network

According to the Norwegian policy newletter Mandag Morgen (Monday Morning) Fast and Schibsted are now building an research alliance with Accenture and several universities in Norway, Ireland and the US, including the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (which gave birth to Fast), the University of Tromsø, the University of Oslo, the Norwegian School of Management, Dublin City University, University College Dublin and Cornell University in the US.

The partners are to invest some NOK 340 million (US$ 51 million) in the new research center Information Access Disruptions (iAd) over an eight year period, Monday Morning reports. The objective is to develop a strong Norwegian industrial cluster that is ultimately to conquer a significant part of the worldwide search engine market.

Possible public funding

The alliance has also applied for support from the Research Council of Norway, which may give the network status as a Centre for Research Driven Innovation in June this year. If the Research Council decides to support Fast & Co, the public money will go to the academic institutions.

The iAd network will for instance work on developing search technologies for searching a wide variety of file formats, and in particular radio and TV programs.

The consortium plans to educate some 30 new engineers and 28 PhDs. There will be at least one new prototype, ten new patents and three new services annually, as well as four so-called ”disruptive” products or services (i.e. radical innovations that change the market place).

Will Fast succeed?

Will Fast succeed in this? Well, whether the Research Council of Norway decides to support them depends on a large number of political, industrial and academic factors.

Fast and the University of Science and Technology in Trondheim has certainly proved that they are capable of delivering very advanced search engine technologies, and Schibsted is quite successful in the media market.

Moreover, the ownership of Fast is again stable. As Pandia has reported Robert Keith and Thomas Russell are once more in control of Opticom and Fast, which suits Fast CEO John Lervik pretty well.

Author: Per and Susanne Koch

Note: This is an archived version of Pandia's origianl article " European search engine alliance to challenge Google".