Based in Paris and Nice, in early 2013 Qwant launched a French search engine as an alternative to the giant, Google. The start-up, which last month set up its thirty engineers and graphic artists in new premises in the centre of Nice, has announced the launch of a new service: Qwant Junior.
Qwant or the comprehensive, social and impartial algorithm
Jean Manuel Rozan, financier, and Éric Leandri, a specialist in IT security joined forces in 2011 to create a new kind of search engine with an interface that orders search results by columns (web, news, social, shopping, images and music) and an algorithm, U-Rank, which places great importance on indexing from social networks. Unlike with Google, this allows many items to be displayed on one « live » search page. Another founding concept that sets it apart from Google is the neutrality of the web results. « This is in our DNA. A search engine can be neutral, not necessarily biased. That’s what we’re trying to do; to guarantee the neutrality of the internet with objective search results. This is the sort of objectivity that Google decided to supress. Our approach is different. » they explained to the Tribune Bulletin Côte d’Azur.
The alternative to Google supported by the German group Axel Springer
Heightened by the Snowden affair, Qwant’s concept has resonated in Europe and attracted the attention of the German group Axel Springer, which last June acquired a 20% stake in the French start-up. « It has done extremely well in Germany. The « privacy » aspect spoke to them immediately », said Éric Leandri. The media giant, which will remain a minority shareholder, has similar requirements to the founders in terms of data protection. « For us, this was fantastic. It is proof that an important investor can support a company that believes tracking people is not the number one business model. » This funding has enabled Qwant to move up a gear, buying new machines and implementing its projects for new services and speeding up its international development. With several million requests per day, the search engine remains modest but promising. « Compared to Google, we are minute, but compared with a traditional start-up, it’s huge. »
The company, which has a turnover of €1.5M has already distributed its platform in around thirty countries (Europe, Middle East, Latin America, etc.) and has announced a Corsican version.
Qwant Junior, a beta version for 3-12 year olds
The company’s latest project is a search engine aimed at children aged between 3 and 12. Designed with children in mind and adapted for a touch-screen use, Qwant Junior removes the results of inappropriate sites and promotes an educational use. Currently in a beta version, Qwant Junior should be available sometime during 2015. English and German versions are being developed.
Compared with Google which is also developing a version for children, Qwant Junior gets a head start in Europe by protecting children’s data (guaranteed by a European directive) while Google’s economic model is based on analysing individuals.
The choice of Nice, on the Cote d’Azur
The company began its business on the Cote d’Azur in 2011, developing its first algorithms surrounded by a certain amount of secrecy. While Qwant is based in Paris in order to develop its business, it is on the Cote d’Azur that its patents are created. Its new 600 m2 offices in the centre of Nice are dedicated entirely to R&D and since November have accommodated around thirty engineers and graphic designers. « We chose to base ourselves in Nice because the technological ecosystem is so favourable here. The lifestyle also makes it easier to attract engineers », confided Eric Leandri, Co-Founder of Qwant. « Nice is a city that feels like a town and is a pleasant place to live. »