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by James Perrin on 21st June 2011
In a market dominated by the search giant Baidu, the state’s effort is ambitious. But then again the state are so relentless in warding off western interest, it’s no surprise this new search engine has been given the backing from multiple Chinese Internet big wigs.
According to the Wall Street Journal the search engine was formerly known as Goso during Beta testing. The site has now been renamed to Jike, meaning ‘immediate’ and sounding similar to Geek in English – in a move to appeal to younger users.
The launch was given the backing of China’s major internet companies. Whilst it was unclear what role these companies actually played, their executives turned out as ‘supporters’ of the new search engine. Executives such as Sina’s CEO Charles Chao, Sohu’s Sogou CEO Wang Xiaochuan and William Zhang the Chief Scientist of Baidu, were all in attendance.
Jike is really China’s state media’s endeavour to compete with commercial companies in a tough but potentially lucrative market. It’s an ambitious attempt to muscle in on a market that is hugely dominated by Baidu.
In fact Baidu hold 75% of the market share, with the western search overlord Google picking up less than 20% of the Chinese market from its exiled Hong Kong base. Analysts believe that it won’t be too hard for Jike to compete, especially given their huge state backing. Almost inevitably, Jike will be used as further leverage to rid the market of troublesome western influences and ensure profits remain within China.
It’s no secret that China is very wary of the western interest in their 470 million internet users, and they haven’t exactly had a rosy relationship with those who have developed a presence within the communist country, for example see our recent reports on the issues faced by Yahoo and Google [Google's Acrimonious China Exit Highlights Role in State Censorship and Yahoo Cagey Over Alibaba Affair].
The battle between China’s philosophy of a state censored Internet and the western capitalist philosophy of a democratic and free Internet has been an ongoing one. Yet slowly it appears that within China, their philosophy is winning. The likes of Google and Yahoo have been slowed down or hindered. In Google’s case, they now operate from Hong Kong, enabling China to continue their censorship whilst Google’s potential for growth is significantly reduced.
Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising if the state run and hugely supported search engine gained huge momentum in the market. However will it actually work? Google’s entrance in China back in 2006 was met with wide scepticism and strict control over their search results. That control caused years of limited growth potential and less than expected profits.
There’s no reason to suggest that a state run search engine wouldn’t work, however for China at least it is a worrying just how much information can be accessed by the government, significantly hindering any right to privacy – but this is a communist regime remember, and one that appears hell-bent on removing western influences.
Whilst it isn’t clear how successful this search engine will be – taking Baidu’s 75% of the market will be incredulous – what is clear however is China’s intentions, and they’re unbelievably determined to keep things the way they want it.