Baidu: Searching for the Ideal

Most Americans are well acquainted with the likes of Google, Bing and Yahoo!, while some of us are familiar with blekko and DuckDuckGo. But it’s the international search competitors that – as much as they might intrigue us – are still relatively unknown in the United States. Baidu, described by some as “the Google of China,” has more than a 70 percent market share in the world’s most populated nation. Google is a distant fourth.

Baidu: Searching for the Ideal image Baidu 300x224BaiduA Picture of Persistence

Baidu was founded in 2000 by search innovator Robin Li. Its headquarters are in Beijing and the company also has a presence in other major Chinese cities and in Tokyo, Japan. The company’s name comes from a poem written more than 800 years ago; with a literal meaning of “hundreds of times,” the name suggests a “persistent search for the ideal.”

Like Google, Baidu has a diversified product offering that extends far beyond just search. Other Baidu products involve social networking, user generated content, location-based products, music products, PC client software, mobile related products and more.

As of last April, Baidu had sales of $2.25 billion and a market cap of $47.52 billion, according to Forbes magazine. Baidu established an R&D facility in the United States in late 2010, and the company boasts well over 10,000 global employees.

Chinese Challenger

Google’s struggles in China are well documented. Well known for its “Don’t Be Evil” philosophy, Google ultimately chose to pull out of mainland China due to concerns about the nation’s heavily censored Internet market. (And some applauded Google for eventually choosing not to censor results as its Chinese competitors continue to do.) While Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt feels that the Chinese government must change its stance on the free flow of information, the fact remains that Google currently has a very small market share in China.

For its part, Baidu has never backed down from a challenge. Baidu partnered with Microsoft in a deal where Bing would provide Baidu with web search services in English some 18 months after Google pulled out of China.

Wait, it gets better: When Google unveiled its Knowledge Graph last year, a Baidu director was quick to respond that his company had been working in semantic search since 2009.

And as 2013 opened, Baidu inked a deal with France Telecom/Orange to put Baidu’s mobile browser on Android phones sold in 19 countries in Africa and the Middle East. The move went a long way in raising Baidu’s international profile.

So, Baidu has significant resources and is bold and full of ambition. But will the Chinese heavyweight ever make any real waves outside of China? And will Google ever become a major challenger to Baidu in the Chinese market? We’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts.

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