The Chinese anti-virus company Qihoo 360 (NYSE:QIHU) launched its own search engine, so.360.cn, late last week. But already 360 Search is in trouble, accused of engaging in dirty tricks to get users to visit the company’s other sites.
It works like this: anyone who searches for “Google” in Chinese – on either the 360 Search page, or on Qihoo’s hao.360.cn portal (sort of like an early AOL links collection) – gets pushed to a Qihoo downloads portal to get Google Chrome in the second search result. Though the correct site is listed first, you can see in the above image that the somewhat inaccurate and self-serving search result is much larger and accompanied by an image. We’ve reached out to Qihoo HQ in Beijing for an explanation, and will update if we hear back.
[UPDATED: A reply from Qihoo]: Asked if the offered download page link might be considered misleading, a Qihoo representative explained:
At the end of day, it is up to Internet users to decide what is the good result and what is the bad. In this case, the first result is Google’s official HK site. The second result is where you can get Google’s most important product: Chrome browser. The third result is about Google’s share price, which is also a hot topic. To a regular user, I think these are fairly good results. […] Since the launch of the search engine, we have received very positive feedback from users, peers, and other industry participants.
360 Search looks set to have quite a big impact on the search scene in China, as the afore-mentioned Hao 360 site is, so Qihoo claims, a huge source of web traffic among China’s 380 million desktop PC users, shepherding relatively new internet users to its paid links. Though both Citron Research and Anonymous Analytics have bones to pick with Qihoo over its traffic and revenue claims, Qihoo’s move into the search market will immediately impact on Google, Tencent Soso, and Sogou – and maybe even on search giant Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU).
Google used to be the default search engine on Qihoo’s Hao 360 portal, but is now usurped by 360 Search.
360 Search features seven main tabs: news, web, video, MP3, images, maps, and answers. For the moment, four of those link to Baidu sites (news, MP3, maps, and Baidu ZhiDao for answers), but it’s highly possible that Qihoo will come up with its own versions of those missing features pretty soon.
QQ Tech, which spotted the Google linkage issue, quotes the Chinese IT expert Wu Hongsheng as saying that 360 Search has already surpassed Google in terms of market share in China – but it’s far too early to have any proof of that.
As for the dirty tricks, it’s not the first time we’ve seen Qihoo engage in Machiavellian tactics to get ahead – just look how it locks users into its 360 Browser, helping push it past Internet Explorer in terms of market share in China.
[Source: QQ Tech – article in Chinese]
[UPDATED at 4pm local time with a quote from Qihoo, as seen above]