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China search engine landscape article

Since my fellow contributing editors are providing information about regional search engines, I decided to post an article I wrote prior to speaking at Search Engine Strategies “Global Search Landscape” session in Chicago. Our own Andy Atkins-Kruger, Web Certain and Nacho Hernandez, iHispanic Marketing Group were also on the panel with Lucas Morea, Latin Edge and myself.

China’s Search Engine Landscape
by David Temple

The search engine landscape in China is changing rapidly as competitors scramble to take the lead in the world’s second largest Internet market, based on the number of users. China’s Internet population reached 103 million by mid 2005, second only to the United States.

It is projected to reach 134 million by year’s end according to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). Daily searches in China are currently at 360 million and are expected to jump to 816 million in 2007, according to investment bank Piper Jaffray. It expects annual revenues from advertising on search sites to reach US$1 billion by 2010, up from US$134 million.

Baidu currently holds the search lead with 37%, followed by Google at 23%, Yahoo! China (including 3721) a close third at 19% and the others at 21% according to Beijing based Analysys International. The others include local web portals such as Sina.com and Sohu.com who have launched their own independent search engines in the past few years. In addition, in May 2005 Microsoft launched MSN China, a Chinese language portal with content provided by local partners.

Baidu who went public in August 2005, state on their website “Baidu, whose literal meaning is hundreds of times, represents persistent search for the ideal.” Baidu’s Founder Robin Li worked as a staff engineer for Infoseek, and a senior consultant for IDD Information Services before launching the Chinese search engine. Mr. Li received a Master of Science Degree in Computer Science from The State University of New York at Buffalo and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Information Management from Peking University.

Google announced in July 2005 that they will launch a new research-and-development center in China. The center will be led by Lee Kai Fu, who joined Google from Microsoft, where he most recently held the position of corporate vice president, after founding Microsoft Research China in the late 1990s. Dr. Lee was a former assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University and has also worked for Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) and Apple.

Yahoo! China was acquired by Alibaba in August 2005 in a deal with Yahoo who purchased 40% of Alibaba for $1 billion. Other Alibaba properties are Alibaba China (the country’s largest online b2b marketplace), TaoBao (a c2c trading site) and AliPay (online payment services). Yahoo! China was recently re-launched with more focus on search and less on the portal aspects. In 1995 Alibaba’s CEO Jack Ma founded China Pages, regarded to be China’s first Internet company. He then headed the information department of the China International Electronic Commerce Center (CIECC) for the Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation (MOFTEC). In early 1999 he left to MOFTEC to launch Alibaba.com.

In June 2005 Sina, a leading Chinese portal, launched their own search engine, iAsk.com which works with both Chinese and English queries. Sina’s other properties include SINA.com (online news and content), SINA Mobile (mobile value-added services), SINA Online (community-based services and games), SINA.net (search and enterprise services) and SINA E-Commerce (online shopping and auctions). Sina’s President and CEO is Wang Yan.

Sohu, which means “Search Fox” started as the country’s first online search company in 1997. Sohu’s properties include sohu.com (portal), sogou.com (search engine), go2map.com (mapping service provider), chinaren.com (an alumni club) 17173.com (information portal) focus.cn (realestate) and goofeel.com.cn (wireless value added service provider).

MSN in May 2005 announced a joint venture deal with Shanghai Alliance Investment Ltd. (SAIL) to deliver MSN products and services including managing the portal, MSN.com.cn. The portal is run by Shanghai MSN Network Communications Ltd. Microsoft has said the portal will offer far more communication, information and content than available through the MSN services, such as Hotmail and Messenger, it already runs in China.

Sina, Sohu, MSN and the other search engines will have to find new and innovative ways to compete with the Baidu, Yahoo! and Google. With so many changes in China’s search landscape, the search engines will be pulling out all the stops as they seek to take the lead and standout in an increasingly competitive China search market.

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David Temple

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