A new Chinese search engine has officially opened its doors, but it is unlikely to be serving many customers in a market already dominated by Baidu and where users find ways to bypass local Web filters.
Set up by China's state-run news outlets, Chinaso.com allows users to search reports published by newspapers and magazines operating in the country, according to local wire Xinhua News Agency. The Chinese-language platform scours through news, images, videos, and maps, as well as 16 TV channels covering a range of genres such as economy and sports.
The search engine was built by the IT arm jointly funded by China's state-run media outlets including four local newspapers, two news agencies, and the state broadcaster China Central Television. People's Daily and Xinhua are among the founders.
ChinaSo.com, though, is unlikely to gain much share in a market that's already pretty much fossilized.
Tech In Asia also points out that the search engine was the result of a merger between two state-backed search engines Jike, operated by People's Daily since 2010, and Panguso, which was a 2011 joint venture between Xinhua and China Mobile. Neither are ranked among the top search engines in the market, making it only to the "Others" category which contributes 0.2 percent of the market.
According to Web analytics firm CNZZ.com, market leader Baidu grabbed 58.14 percent share in February 2014, followed by Qihoo 360 at 25.26 percent. The runner-up is the most likely contender able to shake Baidu off its pole position.
Qihoo 360 CEO Qi Xiang Dong last year said the company was targeting to grow its search market share to 40 percent in 2015 by focusing on key strategies including not interfering with search results. It launched its search engine in August 2012, when it jumped to second position to grab 10 percent of the market.
The Chinese government shrouds the country's Web infrastructure with its rigid filtering system, often dubbed the Great Firewall, which censors search results and blocks social websites such as Facebook and Google+. Local users and visitors to the country, though, have found ways to circumvent the filters through VPNs, for instance. The Great Firewall also faced its share of system glitches and malfunctions in the past, allowing temporary access to blocked sites as well as resulting in major outages.
Online users looking for alternative news source in China won't be running to use a search engine operated by state-run media outlets, and those who do already are well familiar with the likes of Baidu and Qihoo360, leaving ChinaSo.com little room for growth.
China's websites climb to 3.51M
Meanwhile, in other local news, the number of websites in China hit 3.51 million last year, 20 years after the country introduced its first website to the global network in 1994.
According to stats released by Internet Society of China, there are 4.61 million registered domain names and 3.51 million websites owned by 2.82 million entities. Some 70 percent of these were organizations, while the reminder were owned by individuals.
More than 16,000 websites offered professional information about education, medical, and news, according to a Xinhua report.
The very first website in China was developed by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Science's Institute of HIgh Energy Physics in 1994. It offered articles on technology, including a column "Tour in China" which provided information about the country's culture, news, and economy.
As of end-2013, China has over 618 million internet users, 80 percent of whom access the Web via their mobile devices.