Exalead CEO Warns Of “Google Monster” & Closed Yahoo & Microsoft

The Multilingual Search Blog

covers
Exalead CEO Francois Bourdoncle taking a big stick and swinging at
Google in a keynote talk at
SES Paris.
He positions his own service as potentially the savior for those in Europe
worried about the "Google monster." Beyond Google, he also criticizes Yahoo and
Microsoft for collaborating on a "closed" sitemaps protocol. I’d say the Cold
War against American-based search engines is going up a notch.

Let’s deal with the Google Monster idea first:

The press in particular should be worried about becoming
sub-contractors of Google, he said. Whilst at present Google News brings
plenty of traffic to sites under the brand names of the press outlets, this
would change to Google’s brand in the future.

Actually, Google News has always operated under the Google
brand. So much for that secret
Google master
plan
, I guess. In fact, despite using the Google brand, I just covered
some stats
yesterday
showing how Google sends upwards of 22 percent of traffic to
newspapers sites.

Of course, Bourdoncle may have meant that in the future, Google
will actually host content on Google itself, saving people from making a click
through to news sites. Possible. And if so, ironically the newspapers may have
themselves to blame. Go back to my
write-up
about the AP deal with Google. How exactly Google will make more use of AP
content remains to be seen. But I explained that there’s good reason that Google
might host AP content on Google itself, similar to what
Topix does.

Google’s largely seen to have cut the AP deal in part because
the AP may have been threatening legal action. Do a deal, the issue over
spidering goes away — and Google can host news content on its own site. As more
companies clamor for deals (such as in Belgium
this week),
Google might transform into a content hosting service rather than pointing to
content elsewhere.

By the way, Yahoo News already operates this way, hosting
plenty of news content of its own. So even if Google goes that route, why
haven’t news organizations been complaining about the Yahoo monster? My guess
would be that once you cut deals to host content, you seem less monstrous. And
that works again against what Bourdoncle warns. If Google does host content, the
news organization should be happy given they will have done the partnering to
make that happen.

Bourdoncle isn’t the only search engine to swing a torch around
to rally the villagers against the Frankenstein’s monster of Google. Microsoft
just did this last month. CEO Steve Ballmer
positioned
Google as "transferring the wealth out of the hands of rights holders."
Microsoft, of course, does much of the crawling and content gathering that
Google does. It’s hard to see how it is somehow more altruistic.

Such statements make good headlines, and I’d say they’re going
to play even better in Europe, which has watched the search industry rise into
generating billions of dollars for America, rather than euros for Europe. There
are also some serious cultural and political issues to consider. Many people may
simply be more comfortable using a service that grew natively from their own
country. I don’t discount these worries and have great respect for them. I just
dislike much of the scare mongering I also see that often feels like politicians
and private companies hoping to position their own agendas, rather than a common
good.

Such worries are one reason the Quaero project emerged, a
planned multimedia search engine that will get government funds. I’ve
likened this
to being a Boeing versus Airbus challenge in the search world — and also
covered how Europe has had no lack of native technology already that grew
without government subsidies.

Exalead is part of the
Quaero project,
though I remain confused about how to find more about it and what exactly it is
doing. There used to be a site
here
that brings up nothing but a logon page. I’ve also seen the
Quaero.org site referred to as the home of
the project. That’s entirely in French and German, and my German remains pretty
bad. But I’m pretty sure I don’t even see the word Quaero mentioned there.

Anyway, it’s long been on my list to catch-up on the project.
Chris Sherman’s out in France today, and I think he’s actually planning to talk
with Exalead about Quaero more. So stay tuned.

Finally, Google wasn’t alone for criticism:

He also criticised the new sitemaps collaboration announced
by Google, Yahoo and MSN at Pubcon in Las Vegas. He said, “The sitemaps
specification is not nice and open and it not nice and closed”. He believes
the initiative aims to close the door to new entrants to the market place.

Frankly, I disagree. Google’s had a sitemaps system out for
over a year. In that time, I heard not one word out of Exalead that it thought
it made sense that this should be expanded to be supported by other search
engines. Now Google, Yahoo and Microsoft
agreed to a
common specification
. Exalead could jump into supporting that now, if they
wanted. They could also produce a rival format, if they wanted (and what joy
that would be). But instead, what they support is a single page-by-page
submission
feature.
Criticizing a bulk submission feature of your rivals when you offer none of your
own doesn’t win points in my book.

Instead, I’d say the real issue is that Exalead didn’t get to
sit at the big table in working out the agreement along with the other three.
That is unfortunate, just as I felt Ask should have been included as well.
Exalead is an excellent search engine that
deserves the attention of both searchers and the search engine industry alike —
as is Ask.

Not being included from the start was unfortunate, but
forgivable, as long as we see a working group expand going forward. I’m all for
that, though I don’t want expansion to slow things down. It also makes sense
that the market leaders — the services with the most queries and thus the most
attention from site owners — are going to take the lead in these things.

Postscript: Quest for a Euro-Google from the BBC earlier this year
provides a longer look at Quaero and Exalead’s involvement.

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