June 29, 2010
Google's censorship battle and partial retreat from China have reduced competition for Baidu, the country's leading search engine, but it still faces some challengers on its path to market supremacy.
One of them could end up being Goso.cn. The new search engine is a joint effort by the People's Daily and people.com.cn and is part of the latter's stated efforts to become a multilingual and multimedia global brand. A trial version of the search engine, which like most of its Chinese counterparts appears to be a Google clone, was released last week to mixed reviews. Netizens complained that the site is short on features and gives low numbers of search results. Goso responded by posting the following message under its search bar: "The Goso trial version is still continually being improved, thank you for your and understanding, forgiveness, and support." Early problems aside, however, Goso should not be underestimated. "Goso will have resource advantages. Also, company officials have said their competitiveness will stem from building an authoritative, comprehensive Chinese search engine that provides search results that users trust," said an independent analyst covering the sector. But the analyst added that Baidu is still miles ahead of Goso in terms of features and technology, and Goso will not pose a threat in the short term. Another competitor will be Tencent Holdings' Soso, which is working on developing real-time search results, like the "latest results" section on Google that pops up when searching for a topic with a key real-time component to it, such as a major news development. Meanwhile, rumors are rampant that Tencent plans to spend $10 million to purchase Comsenz, China's leading social-software developer. Comsenz would be instrumental in Tencent's real-time search result development efforts. Other Chinese search engines that could play a role include search.cctv.com, which is still in testing, and Xinhua's search.news.cn, launched in 2008. Nevertheless, it will be an uphill battle for any company that tries to challenge Baidu. It captured more than 64% of China's search market in the first quarter and is aiming to raise its market share to 79% next year.
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