By Mike Masnick
It’s no secret that the French government seems to hate big internet companies. It’s spent years attacking them from basically every angle — they allow too much piracy, they don’t protect privacy, they protect privacy too much, they don’t censor enough, they censor too much. Often it really seems like the issue is that these companies are not French companies.
But, really, can you think of any truly successful internet company that started in France? There are a few local to France, but has any really expanded beyond French borders?
So, it’s kind of hilarious that after years and years of attacking various internet companies, France now thinks that the government can build its own competitor to Airbnb:
The French government will join forces with the tourism industry to build an Internet site aimed winning back customers from U.S. online travel giants such as Airbnb Inc. and Booking Holdings Inc.
The initiative is part of government-led stimulus package to revive tourism in one of the world’s top destinations as hotels, restaurants, theme parks as well as travel sites and tour operators are among the hardest hits by lockdowns and restrictions to fight the global coronavirus pandemic.
Of course, as Alec Stapp rightly points out, we’ve been down this path before with France, a decade and a half ago when they tried to build a Google competitor called Quaero. Don’t remember Quaero? It was announced with great fanfare as a pan-EU project (led by France, of course) to create a EU-focused competitor to Google, modeled after the EU’s (more successful) attempt to build a Boeing competitor in Airbus. But, from the very start, it was so obvious that Quaero had no chance (we jokingly said that the name “was French for boondoggle”). Within a few years it was clear that it was just a way for French companies to siphon off free money from the French government without ever building anything useful.
It’s not difficult to predict that this “Airbnb” competitor will be more of the same — especially when you combine the internet-illiterate French government with the legacy hospitality industry that always seems more focused on attacking Airbnb than on engaging in any actual innovation.