We have been questioning Qihoo 360’s (NYSE:QIHU) representatives multiple times on its 360 Search algorithm since last week when its search service was launched. The company kept quiet, even during rumors of rival Baidu taking legal action, until today when it sent out a fairly long Chinese release to share more about its search techniques and about its story. An English version of the release is in the works, a company rep informed us.
But in short, search has always been in Qihoo 360’s long term plan, it says. The company claims to be have been working on its PeopleRank search algorithm for seven years, ever since it started in 2005. And its search effort hasn’t stopped even though its main business was initially anti-virus related products. The search research team also remained intact all the while. Today, Qihoo 360 claims to have 13,000 servers, crawling over one billion pages across the web.
Qihoo 360 also says that the Chinese market — both users and advertisers — aren’t too happy with the current search services as it is dominated by a monopoly. Qihoo 360 didn’t state who the monopoly is, but it’s pretty obvious who it is pointing to.
In the Chinese announcement Qihoo 360 also claimed [UPDATED with official English comment from Qihoo]:
Paid links are mixed with organic search results and that misleads users. And often, fraudulent websites occupy the first page of the search result page as search results are often manipulated manually, which has a major influence on the ranking of search results.
While I’m not sure if Qihoo 360 really did spend seven years researching its 360 Search, I do enjoy watching the ongoing search war. I’m also glad that Qihoo 360 plans to monetize the “Google way,” by not mixing organic, paid, and fraudulent links in a search results page.
Innovation Works’ boss, Kai-Fu Lee, briefly weibo-ed that this search war is bad for users. I disagree. Monopoly is almost never a good thing in a market and having some competition is always good for users. It brings about choice for users and also forces all the players to improve their products. Though it surely must be a stressful few weeks for players in the Chinese online search arena, as companies probably feel a little uncomfortable having the notorious Zhou Hong Yi as a competitor.