Axel Springer invests in privacy-friendly search startup Qwant

The German publisher Axel Springer has bought a minority stake in a French search engine called Qwant, which focuses on user privacy and sorts its results into streams for the web, news, social, shopping and so on.

Axel Springer spokesman Michael Schneider told me the publishing house – which is getting into digital in a big way – saw search as crucial to its various websites in general. The company has also recently invested in vertical search engines in the classifieds space, such as Truffls and Jobspotting, through its Plug and Play accelerator.

“We want to use the knowledge of Qwant and to make an exchange of ideas to see how search works,” Schneider said. He declined to say how large the investment was.

Axel Springer has a keen interest in search, using its political influence in Germany to push back hard against Google from the publishing perspective — a recent open letter from CEO Mathias Döpfner to Google chairman Eric Schmidt makes for an interesting read.

Paris-based Qwant, which has 25 employees, is one of many search startups that are angling for users who value privacy. Unlike Google(s goog), which has well over 90 percent of the European search market, it doesn’t track its users. Requests to social networks are done through a proxy to assure anonymity, Schneider explained.

Other search startups pushing hard for this market include DuckDuckGo, Ixquick/Startpage and Blippex.