Here’s why Qwant is not the Google-Killer that France wanted it to be.


QwantEarly this month, out of thin air came Qwant, a new startup that proposed a new way to do search – it was social, it had “Qnowledge,” and most importantly, it wasn’t Google. Last week, it launched, and Le Figaro, like many tech blogs and mainstream media, loved it. They praised its ability to attract 150,000 visits in 3 days, and the headlines began pouring out: “a 100% French search engine to kill Google” and all that, and then the news broke. Qwant was powering its search with Bing. Bing!? Oh man, that’s that search engine Microsoft build that is essentially the same thing as Google by now but not as pretty so we hate it, right? Never fear, though, because Qwant has announced they will build their own search engine, but wait – isn’t this the same company that said they were a “new generation search engine.” So if they don’t have a search engine what are they?

Let’s not worry about what they really are (just a poor UX with a different way of organizing search results), and let’s forget the fact that, unlike DuckDuckGo, I frankly don’t like the results that come up when i search “rude baguette” on the service. It’s not because Qwant was using bing to power its search results that it won’t succeed, it’s because it was trying to be a next generation search engine while still being a search engine.

Qwant serach result

The next generation of search won’t be search. That’s the same generation. “But it adds in social networks” you say – well, as it turns out, so does Google. And not just Google+ – whenever I need to find a twitter user, I don’t search on twitter (because their search sucks), I use Google and type “twitter [name]” and, wow, it’s right there. Did they integrate with Twitter? No. They are just smart. 15 years or search experience smart, and if you think another search engine is going to ‘dethrone’ them or even take 0.01% of the search market, you’re wrong.

I welcome founder Jean Manuel Rozan to tell me why Qwant will be different, but unless he’s researching user trends, I doubt I’ll be impressed. I already wrote this year that I think the only thing that will be Active(i.e: search) will be Passive (i.e: recommendation). Startups like Airbnb are already working on phasing search out, but there are still many years to come before a site will be able to reccomend me what I want faster than I can type it in Google and with as much precision.

We will get there, but I doubt it will be with Qwant.