Baidu down; Qihoo up; Google dead. That’s the summary of what happened to search engines in China in 2013. It was a year of big and dramatic changes.
Baidu’s (NASDAQ:BIDU) slide was put into motion in the summer of 2012 when web portal company and software maker Qihoo (NYSE:QIHU) unleashed its brand-new search engine. Much of Qihoo’s gain – thanks to web searches stemming from its Internet Explorer-esque browser – came at the expense of Baidu.
China’s search engine leader entered 2013 with 71.7 percent market share of page-views, but Baidu ended the year with just 63.1 percent. Meanwhile, Qihoo rocketed from 10.4 percent in December 2012 to 22.5 percent in December 2013 data from CNZZ.
Google stares into the abyss
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) had already been struggling since early 2010 when the Silicon Valley giant shuttered its Chinese search engine – it was at Google.cn – so as not to comply with China’s media censorship laws. However, its Google Hong Kong search engine is partially blocked by China’s Great Firewall, and it’s a lottery if the Google.com.hk page loads or not. Google has a mere 1.6 percent market share as a search engine in China in December 2013, compared to the 11.25 percent share it had in December 2010. It was already tanking in 2012, but 2013 was the year that Google slid into oblivion in China, barely ahead of Bing and Yahoo.
Here’s the shifting sands of 2013 captured in one chart:
After all that tumult, this is the scene in CNZZ’s newest data for December 2013:
Who’s winning mobile search?
While that looks worrying for Baidu, the company can gain some comfort from the fact that it has the best smartphone strategy and mobile app ecosystem of any of its local rivals. Certainly way ahead of Qihoo, whose mobile search engine is about five years behind the curve. As shown in the image below, Qihoo’s search engine (so.com) gives you a bunch of links when you search “Starbucks” on your phone, whereas Baidu actually makes itself useful (if you scroll down the first page a bit) by showing you the nearest Starbucks branches along with a handy button for you to call the store. When I search for something on my phone, it’s usually because I need local information, but Qihoo still has none of that.
2014 will be a year of intensifying rivalry between Baidu and Qihoo – not just for search engine users, but for web users and app downloads across numerous areas, such as anti-virus apps, web browsers, Android app store users, and music streaming. And those are just the current clash points between the two firms. More will emerge in the new year.
(Editing by Josh Horwitz)