The Japanese government is set to work to get together a Japanese alternative to Yahoo! and Google. A project tipped to cost about £500 million and three years to complete begins this week, aiming to provide the ultimate tool for navigating online content. A great deal of political weight is behind this work, so much so that it brings rivals Sony and Matsushita together. More than 20 companies, including Hitachi and Panasonic, have joined the research group.

The impetus is believed to come indirectly from the IT research department of the office of Junichiro Koizumi, the Prime Minister. He has embraced the internet as a political tool, and has emphasised Japanís need to extend its presence in the world of information technology.