When you think of search in China, you think of Baidu. If you keep thinking, you’ll probably think of Qihoo 360 and Sogou, too. But you probably won’t think of Panguso or Jike, two state-owned search engines so irrelevant that they usually show up in market share data in the “Other” category because they control well under one percent of the market. But could these titans of irrelevance be poised to become, er, slightly less irrelevant through a merger?
Although Jike claims it is unaware of any merger plans, rumors have been swirling for months and have become quite specific over the past few days. Supposedly, the two services are to be merged into an entirely new company that would be headed by Xinhua’s Zhou Xisheng.
Fueling these rumors is the fact that Jike CEO Deng Yaping seems to be MIA and is rumored to be out of favor and possibly out of a job after a partnership with Yunyun that ended badly, leaving Jike out of a big chunk of cash but somehow still owning none of the search technology it had invested in Yunyun to develop.
Whether or not the merger rumors are true, it seems likely that sooner or later China’s government may want to take another swing at the search engine market given that its first attempts (the aforementioned Jike and Panguso) have failed so poorly. Among other reasons, the government is particularly interested in this market because monitoring search patterns is a great way of keeping public sentiment, something that China’s government is interested in for obvious reasons.