Google made front page news everywhere when they chose to pull their search engine from China because of censorship issues. Today it is Microsoft making the headlines by teaming up with the leading Chinese search engine, Baidu, to offer their popular Bing search engine to China.
In China, only about 30% of the country’s population actually has access to the Internet but that 30% equals around 470 million users. That number makes it the world’s largest Internet population and, therefore, a potential source of great profit.
Baidu controls upwards of 75% of China’s search market but is primarily in Chinese. There is a need for a user friendly English language search engine in China though because there are at least 10 million English searches a day on Baidu. Baidu already controls nearly 85% of Chinese search in the United States. However, to gain more ground globally Baidu need to seek out a partner to beef up and improve their English search capabilities.
Part of the reason there is such a need for an English search engine in China is that Google recently withdrew the bulk of their mainland China search due to censorship. Google had expressed concerns about the way the country forced search engines to edit their results excluding information about pornography, political dissidents, information on human rights issues, controversial information about the country of Taiwan and other government controlled issues. The final straw happened when government supporters hacked into Google to obtain their email and source codes. This was too much for Google and they canceled the majority of their search on the Chinese mainland and moved it to Hong Kong where censorship is not a problem.
Microsoft has been looking for a way to cripple Google’s global dominance when it comes to search but Bing has yet to make a real impact. This could be the company’s opportunity to access millions of users who do not have the ability to use Google to find their English language information. Bing will remain an English search engine and a rep from Microsoft has stated that there is no need to implement additional censorship since it already adheres to the country’s search requirements.
Currently most English search in China is still going through Google so whether this gamble will be successful is yet to be seen. It will certainly improve English language searches for those in the mainland that have limited or no access to Google right now. Bing is expected to show up on Baidu’s search engine by the end of 2011.