Germany has confirmed it is pulling out of a planned French-German internet search engine deisgned to compete with US giant Google and is setting up its own German version.
The French-German service—named Quaero, Latin for I seek—was created in 2005 to give European users a more local search medium for video and audio content.
French President Jacques Chirac and former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder officially introduced Quaero in April that year and initially agreed to commit around €1 billion to €2 billion towards the project over five years.
On Tuesday (2 January) the German economics ministry confirmed remarks in late December that the country was leaving Quaero to focus on a smaller, domestic research effort called Theseus.
"We will still see cooperation, but in another form, such as work groups," Hendrik Luchtmeier, a spokesman for Germany's economics ministry had said back in December.
"The consortium between the German and French governments is over," he stated, according to Deutsche Welle.
Angela Merkel, the Christian Democratic chancellor who defeated Mr Schroeder in September 2005, never officially committed to the Quaero project.
Theseus is named after a legendary Greek hero who found his way out of a labyrinth inhabited by a monster—the Minotaur.
The French vowed to continue their efforts to develop the search engine, according to the International Herald Tribune, possibly with funding from the European Union whose presidency over the next six months is held by Germany.
The split highlights the difficulty of managing cross-border projects in the EU, coming just months after it was revealed that the problem delaying the Franco-German Airbus A380 superjumbo project was in part caused by the fact that German engineers used different software from their French colleagues.
"The truth is that the German and French projects were only remotely connected," Francois Bourdoncle, French search engine developer and a participant in the Quaero industrial consortium, told the paper.
"We wanted to develop multimedia search and the Germans wanted to develop text search. Part of the problem is that talk of a European challenge to Google exaggerated expectations," he said, adding that German and French organisers could not agree on a development plan for the project.
In the meantime, a Norwegian project with €11 million support from the European Union as well as several European companies and universities has been named PHAROS—Platform for Search of Audiovisual Resources Across Online Spaces.