Baidu.com -- das etwas andere Google

Das chinesische Suchportal Baidu.com ist mit dem Einstieg von Yahoo sowie seinem hochfliegenden Börsengang auch im Westen bekannt geworden. Technology Review widmet sich heute den diversen Unterschieden der Plattform zu Haushaltsnamen im Search-Markt wie Google:
While Baidu's revenues are relatively slender--$8.4 million for the second quarter of 2005, compared with $1.38 billion at Google—it remains the world's most visited Chinese language website, according to statistics collected by Alexa Internet. It also earns a far greater share of Chinese advertising dollars than Google, according Jim Sun, an Internet industry analyst with Evolution Securities in Shanghai. Indeed, that may be why Google itself bought a minority stake in Baidu in June. (The size of the deal was not disclosed.) The company's local connections and home-grown business practices are what give it an advantage over rivals, according to Sun. For example, Baidu doesn't require clients to use a credit card to pay for their ads, as Google does. "Google's revenues [in China] last year were below 50 million RMB [US$6.1 million]...because people have to pay Google through credit card, and Chinese clients seldom use credit cards," says Sun. Baidu also offers an appealing product to advertisers that Google doesn't: paid search placement, or the selling of search engine results for particular keywords to the highest bidder. In a Baidu search on the word "Beijing," for example, the top four results appear to be paid links to travel agents and other businesses. These links are indistinguishable from the normal, unpaid results on Baidu. Chinese Web surfers don't seem to mind; indeed, paid placement is the primary source of Baidu's revenues. But it's a strategy Google has adamantly refused to consider. Finally, Internet companies operating in China are more accustomed than Western firms to dealing with censorship. As has been reported widely in the global press, politically sensitive keywords are banned on Chinese search engines. Searching for "Tiananmen" on Google's Chinese edition, for instance, brings up a few Web pages mentioning the Chinese government's infamous crackdown in that Beijing square in 1989. On Baidu, those sites simply don't appear. Savvy Chinese Internet users, who seem more focused on business than politics, simply work around this censorship, and Baidu's practices "will not have a serious impact on public opinion," in Sun's words. But when Western companies operating websites in China bow to the same government policies, they catch flak back home. (U.S. bloggers criticized Microsoft earlier this summer, for example, for blocking banned words in the titles of blogs created by Chinese users of its MSN Spaces service.) Foreign companies like Google need to adapt to local conditions if they are to have any chance of success in China, says Caroline Straathof, senior director of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications at the popular Chinese Internet portal Sohu. "Spending a lot of money is not the solution," Straathof says.


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