Jean-Noël Jeanneney, the president of the National Library of France, is French. And it must be noted that the French are, well, different when it comes to culture and language. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jeanneney has written a book about Google’s potential to misrepresent, or even damage, the world’s cultural heritage. Jeanneney argues that Google’s unsystematic digitization of books from a few partner libraries and its reliance on works written mostly in English constitute acts of selection that can only extend the dominance of American culture abroad.
He is concerned about Google’s role in the world and fears that Europes identity and culture is under attack by the English oriented focus of Google. He also challenges Google’s assertion that its venture offers a source of universal knowledge. Jeanneney finds such a claim spurious and utopian. I think it is a bit ambitious to call your own venture ‘a source of universal knowledge’ and a little ambition
never killed anyone is better than no ambition at all.
Jeanneney pleas for the European community to create their own search engine to counter Google’s which is I don’t have much faith in. There have been several attempts to start competing search engines. In fact, not a day goes by without the launch of another ‘Google Killer’. In reality people haven’t been very interested in local search engines.
We attended the launch of Accoona, a very ambitious project to build THE European Search Engine, in Paris last year. Accoona has lots of cash ($100 million in funding!) and is headed by Eckhard Pfeiffer who is the former CEO of Compaq Computers. Among the guest were Clinton (via Live video feed) and Kasparov, a whole bunch of journalists and enough champagne to get us all drunk, twice.
The service was launched as THE European answer to Google with local version in every county in Europe. I don’t remember much of the party but I do know it was the last time I ever heard of Accoona. So much for Europe’s Search Engine.
Either way, I suggest you read ‘Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge‘ and get a fresh look at Google and its claims to become the source of universal knowledge and this excellent and more in-depth review of the book.