Chinese web companies have a bad reputation for back-stabbing and skullduggery – but that might be about to change, at least for China’s search engines. The country’s top 12 search engines  yesterday signed a code of conduct that aims to stamp out acts of sabotage and unfair competition.
The agreement brought together representatives from 12 web companies in the search engine sector at the behest of a government-backed trade organization. Aside from creating the awkward photo below, it also brought together fierce rivals Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) and Qihoo (NYSE:QIHU), which have been locked in a tense stand-off after Qihoo launched its own search engine this summer. Indeed, the subsequent Baidu-Qihoo tussle shone a spotlight on some of the shadier shenanigans on the Chinese web, with suspicions of content-scraping and blocking rivals.
The code of conduct focuses on the web spiders that crawl websites to index content. These things should no longer be used “to carry out acts of unfair competition,” says the WSJ translation of the agreement. And although the code is voluntary and not legally binding, the government involvement might make the companies – such as Baidu, Qihoo, Tencent, and Sohu – wary of upsetting authorities.
Web spider usage was a cause of concern just after Qihoo’s 360 Search was launched, with some accusing Qihoo of scraping Baidu’s search results to give its fledgling product a boost. But yesterday, Qihoo’s CFO, Alex Xu, denied the allegation and said his company only indexed Baidu content like its Wikipedia-esque
ZhiDao BaiKe service, and did not in any way steal Baidu’s search results.
As with all government-backed pronouncements like this, we say, Good luck with that!