China has a new search engine today, though most web users won’t notice or ever visit it. The brand-new ChinaSo is a state-run search site that Sina Tech believes is run by the vice president of the Xinhua news agency, Zhou Xisheng. (Update: Apparently Mr. Zhou is the CEO designate. We’ve contacted ChinaSo for further details).
ChinaSo – ‘so’ in this context means search – is not the first such venture in the country. Indeed, ChinaSo is created from a merger of two of those government-backed search engines. The few people who visit Jike or Panguso today will notice that they now redirect to ChinaSo. Rumors about the merger were first heard last August.
Doomed to less than 0.2 percent market share?
Jike was created by Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily back in 2010, while Panguso is a joint-venture between Xinhua and China Mobile that came online in 2011. Neither of those search engines ever gained enough market share to appear in CNZZ figures – which means neither of those two earlier state-run search sites managed to crack 0.2 percent market share, leaving them lumped in the ‘others’ category. There’s no reason to believe ChinaSo will fare any better.
Baidu is China’s top search service with 63 percent market share of page-views at the end of 2013.
All search engines that operate out of mainland China must adhere to strict media policies that include censoring a huge array of search terms. In such a restrictive environment where authorities have successfully implemented full control over what can be displayed by search engines (and any media outlet), it’s not clear why ChinaSo is even needed. Google’s Hong Kong-based search engine doesn’t censor results, but it has paid a heavy price for doing so. Apart from Google.com.hk being awfully slow in mainland China – as are most overseas websites – it is sometimes subject to a ‘connection reset’ as if it’s being partially blocked. To Google’s ever-decreasing China user-base, that makes the Google site look like it’s slow or broken. That’s why Google has plummeted from 11.25 percent market share in China in December 2010, down to a mere 1.62 percent in December 2013.
The new ChinaSo site – with its very Google-y multi-color logo – comes with portals covering newspapers, finance, videos, maps (using Autonavi), and all the national news that’s fit to print.
(Editing by Josh Horwitz)