A new European Union (EU) funded project that could upset the domination of Google and Yahoo! as the world’s leading search engines is well underway, according to reports this week.

The German-based project, entitled Theseus, which aims to create a multilingual, multimedia search platform for the next generation of internet users has been promised €120 million (£80.7 million) of funding from Europe in what some have suggested is an international bid to knock the internet search giants from their perch. According to online technology news and blog site TechWhack, the purpose of the new search engine is not only to loosen Google’s grip on the search engine market but is also to look towards the future of the internet.

The Associated Press (AP) reported this week that companies expected to be involved in the Theseus project will include Siemens AG, SAP AG, Deutsche Thomson oHG and EMPOLIS GmbH initially in a research capacity.

Google’s response to the news that the project was going ahead with the new funding came in a statement from spokeswoman Katie Watson who said: "We welcome all efforts to help democratise access to information."

In his blog for e-business website webpronews.com Doug Caverly argued that the ambitions of Theseus should not be seen as a competitor to Google but more of an exercise in offering new search engine techniques.

"In the end, the Germans hope to offer unique semantic search abilities, but Theseus is not intended to compete with Google."

The character from which the Theseus project takes its name is the mythical Greek king who successfully navigated the maze of King Minos and destroyed the Minotaur. Although it seems clear that the idea of a hero who defeats the seemingly impossible maze is comparable with internet navigation, the question does still remain as to who the monstrous Minotaur represents.

The Theseus project itself originated in 2005, when Germany and France began to look at new technologies to strengthen the competitiveness of the search engine market within Europe. The result was Quaero, an initiative that looked at search technologies and services for the future of the internet.

Former French president Jacques Chirac once called the Quaero initiative "the answer to the global competitors of Google and Yahoo!"

As France maintained its own project under the original name, Germany decided to name its national program Theseus, although it is hoped that the two countries will collaborate again where possible following the division at the end of last year.

European commissioner for competition, Neelie Kroes, has welcomed the development this week telling Bloomberg: "I am pleased that Germany intends to promote additional research and innovation for the next generation of the internet and has taken care to do so in a way that will minimize any distortions of competition."

Now that the project has EU approval and the funds in place to develop it is hoped that the multimedia, multilingual search engine that the project aims to create will become a reality.

According to Deutsche Welle, Siemens’ vice president of corporate technology Hartmut Raffler said today in a statement: "Theseus will make it possible for all Internet users to have easy access to global knowledge."

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