Taobao has extended local map search capabilities to its mobile apps and lifestyle portal.
The mapping service by the Alibaba-owned online retail site is available to users of Taobao Local Life mobile app, Taobao Travel and price comparison app Etao Guangjie, according to Tencent Technology News site reported on Wednesday. The service is also accessible on a Web site at map.taobao.com.
An Alibaba spokesperson clarified to ZDNet Asia that the company is not launching a separate map service. "The Taobao Lifestyle platform is simply making use of maps provided by the AliCloud mapping service, which was already available via the Aliyun OS when it was launched last year, to display locations of offline stores and services," she said.
The spokesperson explained Bendi.taobao.com (translated as localized Taobao) is a platform that lists local services and store locations for users, as some merchants listed on Taobao and its daily deal site Juhuasuan also have brick-and-mortar stores.
The mapping search capabilities will allow users to view the store locations of these merchants, she added.
The map displays information on local businesses, discounts and services, the report said.
According to Chinese report, the mapping service will draw retailer and merchant information from the Taobao range of sites and will run on Alibaba's mobile operating system Aliyun. Aliyun reportedly obtained an Internet mapping license, mandatory for all map makers, back in 2010.
The news follows the similar ramping up of service by rival Baidu and Google in China and Japan last month. Apple's decision to release its latest operating system iOS 6 without Google Maps has given competitors a chance to gain ground, a separate report by TheNextWeb news site noted.
Earlier this month, China has also started to step up inspection on mobile devices using maps that leak confidential geographical information or have inaccuracies. This was in line with its lawmakers' efforts to regulate mapping services, after the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation (NASMG) noticed many Internet-based maps used by cell phones and tablets.