Is Google Gauche?


French President Jacques Chirac thinks Google is a plague on French culture, so he's asked his culture minister and the head of Bibliotheque Nationale to dream up an organically French search engine. What would that look like? Certainly not like the existing French version of Google, corrupted as it is by the dirty googling masses. The Economist reports:

Why not let Google do the job? Its French version is used for 74 percent of internet searches in France. The answer is the vulgar criteria it uses to rank results.

"I do not believe", wrote Mr Donnedieu de Vabres in Le Monde, "that the only key to access our culture should be the automatic ranking by popularity, which has been behind Google's success."

The answer, of course, is to let right-thinking men decide what ought to be popular:

If popularity cannot arbitrate, what will? Mr Jeanneney wants a "committee of experts". He appears to be serious…

Whole thing here.

NEXT: You Know You're Neolibertarian If ...

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I suspect g. marius might have something interesting to say about this.

  2. Oh yeah, that’ll work. Just look at the success of l’Acad?mie fran?aise.

  3. I do not approve of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it, provided you say it in French.

  4. Makes sense to me. In a country where everyone is liberated, equal, and fraternal someone has to keep the mob moving in the right direction.

  5. Uh, there are other search engines that use a different algorithm than google that are freely available to everyone.

    I suspect the French would define google as a monopoly.

  6. Hi Ken, have you ever boycotted French products? On principle…

  7. taking away the popular activity of showing how cool you are by “french bashing” (see earlier comments about “finding france on a map”, etc), this is a good example of static vs dynamic that our good friend Ms Postrel highlighted in FAIE…

    boycotting french products “on principle”? are you serious?

  8. I envision a group of chain-smoking French academics sitting in a room Google-bombing all day long. Assuming they’ve come down out of their Montparnasse to actually find out how Google bombing works.

  9. Wow, I can’t imagine anything along the lines of Google being sorted by humans.

    Though it sounds like Chirac wants to start up a French version of the book search and not a whole version of the search engine.

  10. This reminds me of the Simpsons Australian episode, where a complicated piece of machinery fixed to the toilets at the American embassy makes the water swirl the “correct American way.”

  11. Have you verified that this is not an april fools joke?

    ‘He appears to be serious…’

    Pub Date is March 31.

  12. This is just another reason to be a Francophile.

    The French are just so damn adorable (and amusing) when they’re fretting about the inevitable marginalization of their culture.

    Now I’ve got to delete the arrosage from ordinateur.

    QFMC cos. V

  13. ?I simply note that this commercial company is the expression of the American system, in which the law of the market is king.?

    Wow. I just had a moment of profound patriotism.

  14. If popularity cannot arbitrate, what will? Mr Jeanneney wants a “committee of experts”.

    For all their talk about “democracy” you will that find most governing in France (and the rest of Europe, for that matter) is done by “committee[s] of experts”.

  15. We have a presumptive winner for the “Technologically Illiterate Proposal of the Year” competition. Let’s see Congress come up with another anti-spam law to give Mr. Jeanneney a run for his money.

  16. Organically French search engine:

    Qu’est ce vouz cherchez pour, aujour d’hui?
    (What do you wish to search for today?)

    euro+conversion+ rates

    Est ce que les francs ne sont pas bonnes?
    (What, are Francs not good enough for you?!?!?)

    euro+conversion+ rates

    D’accord, mais, J’ai du cafe maitenent. Je fais ca quand je fais ca
    (Fine, but I’m having my latte right now, I’ll look for it when I get back)

    euro+conversion+ rates

    Si to arretes mon mange encore, Je vais apprendrez troize semaines de
    vacances, tu chou-chou!
    (If you interrupt my long lunch again, I’ll file a grievance, and add
    another week to my 12 weeks of paid vacation! You cabbage!)


    Je ne peux pas en ce moment je suis baise occupee votre epouse
    (I can’t right now, I’m busy screwing your wife.)

  17. Disclaimer: though I wish I could claim the previous post, it was composed by a friend but I thought it worth sharing.

  18. Joke all you want, but France’s Minitel network was in ordinary civilian users’ homes back when America’s Internet was barely out of diapers and on the desks of academics. Total Internet user levels only passed Minitel around 1997.

    XMas – a “web directory” style search engine such as Yahoo Directory is precisely a human-categorized search engine. It’s by no means an unimaginable prospect. Other examples abound, for example, which operates on a decentralized volunteer model.

  19. “Joke all you want, but France’s Minitel network was in ordinary civilian users’ homes back when America’s Internet was barely out of diapers and on the desks of academics. Total Internet user levels only passed Minitel around 1997.”

    You are not seriously going to hold up Minitel as an example of French technological sophistication, are you?

  20. linguist:

    Pat on the back for your pal. That is definitely worth preserving …

  21. These French are etourdi!

  22. Jason Ligon,

    For its time it was a great system. The whole micropayments concept, etc. was really cool.


    French culture isn’t being marginalized, despite the government’s best efforts to make that the case. ­čÖé

  23. I have a name for their new search engine:


  24. “…organically French search engine.”

    Hmmm, what could that mean? A search engine that only works 35 hours a week?

  25. MJ,

    Thankfully they got rid of the 35 hour week law.

  26. Geez, the lack of appreciation of voluntary interaction and the assumption that state authority needs to be involved produces the most bizarre aberrations of common sense.

  27. for those of you who pray at the market driven popularity alter I sentence you to 6 hours of listening to commercial radio.

  28. I was under the impression that Minitel is an example of why you DON’T want everything to become a massive govt project. Imagine if the US had been run the same way on the same system, we’d currently have a comittee telling us that the web must not be allowed to go forward because it is unecessary, does not serve the “public interest”, isn’t compatible with their infrastructure, etc. Maybe 30 years from now we’d start to have something along the lines of internet circa 1995, but of course this would have to be done with the approval of the experts. Look for broadband to become widespread somewhere around 2075.
    As far as French-bashing is concerned, well what would you be saying of George Bush himself launched an initiative to mandate the term “freedom fries”, set levels as to how much non-American media could be broadcast, and started condemning things like Encyclopedia Brittanica as not American enough? Yet this sort of bizzarre, jingoistic, xenophobic, arrogant behavior is completely accepted (and expected) coming from France. Not only that, they then demand to be seen as the enlightened ones! You tell me who is more part of the “world community”, a nation where cultural mixing is held up as an ideal, or one where the ideal is to shut it out because all others MUST be inferior. It’s somewhat amusing today, but where is this attitude going to leave France in 30, 40 years? There was another country who believed that only they had the special and proper science, the special and proper culture, the special and proper literature, then banned and burned all the rest of it. You’d think the French of all people would see the folly of that attitude.

  29. The French are just very nationalistic. I do not know why. They also have a plan to launch a Satelite into orbit that will transmit french radio and t.v. stations so that frenchmen around the world are not dependant on the english news media.

  30. Dave,

    I found the minitel system very useful. Since it was run by a public/private corporation, maybe that’s how it got to be so useful. It also seemed to deal with costumer feedback well.

    Anyway, I think you are confusing what the government tries to do vis a vis French culture and what French culture and society actually do. As I always like to say, France is a very successful society, culture, etc., despite the government, not because of it.

    And yes, our government also tries to “protect” our culture in innumberable ways.


    Certain elements of French society are certainly very nationalistic; as nationalistic as certai elements of U.S. society (just go to Paris on Bastille Day).

  31. Jeff:

    I accept your sentence. Of course, I enjoy some talk radio, and if I want music I have choices. Both Sirius and XM are offering 3-day free trials online. I listened to about six hours of my favorite, non-profit radio station today. Does that count? They call themselves a “public” radio station, but they are public the way GM is a “public” corporation. A private U holds the license. Of course, when a unit of government, like a state U, holds the license, I consider that a violation of the First Amendment.

    Being opposed to a metastasized government does not mean that one need be hostile to non-commercial endeavors. Non-profit educational, cultural and charitable institutions are important in a free society, for their independence from the government no less than for the good work they do.


  32. Jeff:

    for those of you who pray at the market driven popularity alter I sentence you to 6 hours of listening to commercial radio.

    But that’s one of the great things about the market, and liberty in general. We can just turn off what we don’t like.


    Austin Powers

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.