China says no to Bing, Baidu ups lead over Google

Google's share of the Chinese online search market dropped slightly in the second quarter as market leader Baidu took more search volume, according to market research companies.

Google has fought for years to win Chinese users away from Baidu, a Chinese Internet search company. Their rivalry has led the two companies to release directly competing products such as search services for free music downloads.

Users went to Baidu for 75.7 percent of their online searches in China in the second quarter, a rise of 1.6 percentage points from the first three months of the year, according to iResearch, a Chinese Internet consultancy.

Google drew 19.8 percent of the searches, down 1.1 percentage points from the previous quarter, the iResearch numbers showed.

Microsoft's Bing search engine also attracted a fraction of Chinese users after it went online in early June, but Microsoft will have to continue improving the service to retain users, the researcher said. Bing drew 0.3 percent of the searches in China in the second quarter.

Microsoft's recent search deal with Yahoo, under which Bing's algorithm will drive Yahoo searches, does not include Yahoo China. Yahoo's China operations are controlled by Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group, which has not announced any similar deal with Microsoft. Yahoo China competes with local search engines for the small portion of the market not dominated by Baidu and Google.

Google is popular mainly among some urban Chinese users, while users in China's rural areas almost always turn to Baidu. Some users go to Google for searches in English but switch to Baidu for searches in Chinese.

The growth in Baidu's market share reflected growth in the overall number of searches being done in China, iResearch said.

Another Chinese research outfit, Analysys International, found a similar rise for Baidu and drop in market share for Google in the second quarter. But it noted that Google's search volume was still up almost two-thirds from a year earlier.

Google's share of user searches was down 1.5 percentage points from the previous quarter, while Baidu's was up 2.6 percentage points, Analysys said.

"The situation in the Chinese online search market is relatively stable, Baidu holds an absolutely dominant position, and there is limited room for other companies to play," Analysys said.

Google China hit a setback in June when the government punished it for allowing pornographic links to appear in its search results. China at one point blocked and other Google services, and the company changed its algorithm to filter porn from search results.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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