Japan Embarks on Search Engine Project (GOOG, MSFT, YHOO)

by: Steven Towns

What do Japan and France have in common? They both want to develop a "national" Internet search engine to counter the strength of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Yahoo (YHOO). The Japanese press is reporting about a "fear that the domination of the three firms will prevent Japanese companies from entering the market" as the basis for 30 Japanese organizations joining together to develop an advanced search engine.

This is not new news as it has been an on-again, off-again topic over the past several years. And it's not all that surprising governments are worried about what can and cannot be accessed via search engines (just think about China). An even more pressing international concern is the influence and control the U.S. exerts over the Internet itself via ICANN.

The Japanese consortium includes the likes of Hitachi (HIT), Fujitsu (OTCPK:FJTSY), NTT (NYSE:NTT), the prestigious University of Tokyo, and a possible government subsidy.

I don't think a government subsidy or support for the project does much to level the playing field; rather it seems anti-competitive. With 30 interests involved in the project is it really feasible in the two-year time frame they've established for launching it? What becomes of it once it goes live? I have a lot of questions and wonder in the end if this ambitious project won't be crushed by the in-house R&D of the Big-3.

One positive aspect of the project is that it will be open-source in nature where details of the search engine will be made available at home and abroad. Users will be able to "modify the technology to develop their own search engines to meet their needs, which researchers hope will lead to technological innovations." (Mainichi Daily News)

I'd be interested in hearing Seeking Alpha readers' thoughts.

Click here for link to coverage in English by the Mainichi Daily News.

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