It has been some time since my last overview of the latest “What happened in China”. I just blame it on buying an apartment in Shanghai:).
There has happened a lot and I will highlight the most significant. Baidu is yet again offering more services, Google revives Answers, Yahoo resumes real name service and Alibaba starts an ad exchange. First something else.
Halfway July, the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC is a government agency) released the lowdown on the number of Internet users in China. The report showed a sharp increase over the last half year, from 137 million to 162 million users.
It surprised me but I couldn’t figure out right away what the cause was.
The CWRblog did have an explanation for it, by citing from the report that the CNNIC has changed their definition of an Internet user. In all previous reports Internet users were defined as “Chinese citizens aged 6 and above who averagely use the Internet at least one hour per week”.
In the latest version the CNNIC has broadened the scope of Internet Users by changing the definition to, “Chinese citizens aged 6 and above who used the Internet in the last half year”. A rather significant difference which helps the stats go up. The difference in definition also applies to Mobile Internet Users. No wonder the number of mobile internet users increased with 157% to 44 million. It seems they can’t wait to overtake the US fast enough.
Baidu’s call-a-search and IM rumors
Baidu has launched a voice-based search service. You call and a real person will help you out.
Danwei tried it out:
You can call (010) 1161 6690 and ask the operator to search for information.
Your correspondent called and asked for a Middle Eastern restaurant in Beijing. The operator took about one minute to provide the phone number and address of 1001 Nights, which is in fact the capital’s most popular Arab restaurant.
I then asked the operator to find Hu Jintao’s (note: the Chinese President) email address. She was amused but had no luck finding it.
There are rumors that Baidu will launch their own instant messenger. The current leader is Tencent with QQ, followed by MSN Messenger. Although a rumor I wouldn’t be surprised if Baidu would launch this. All the big players in China venture out from their core business to corner more of the Internet market. As said, QQ rules the instant messaging market so it won’t be an easy venture in case the rumor becomes reality.
Google offers Chinese Answers and plans investments
Google has started a cooperation with Tianya.cn, a huge community website, to offer a free version of Answers and cooperate as well on Laiba, a social networking website. Last year they closed down their paid English version of Answers but recently they started a free Russian version and now it’s China’s turn.
Baidu Answers(zhidao.baidu.com) has been very successful in China. Robin Li, CEO of Baidu claimed recently that Baidu Answers has become the largest interactive community service in the world.
The same blog also mentions the rumor, there we have it again, that Google has taken a majority stake in said Tianya. On the time of writing the draft for this article, it was still a rumor. It has stopped being a rumor as Google announced they made an investment in Tianya. The amount of the investment is still in the open. The rumor, I love these, is that they bought 60% but Google denies.
This investment is in line with Kai-Fu Lee’s, president of Google China, recent statements that they intend to invest in four to five companies and buy one or two companies. Tianya is the first one that has been made public.
Another show of Google’s intent to get as local as possible is that they introduced two other versions of its Guge News. A Text-only and an Image-version.
Alibaba gets a wife
Alibaba has added a new part to its already formidable empire. Next to Alibaba, the biggest B2B platform in China, next to Taobao, the biggest online auction platform and next to Alipay, the biggest online payment provider in China, they have now started Alimama which is a nice addition to the Alibaba family.
From the CWRblog
As a typical ad exchange, in Alimama, publishers can specify the format of ads on their websites, the types of ads they would like to serve, the price for the ads, and the profile of the website to let advertisers to choose. Advertisers can set the readers they want to targeted, their budgets and the type of ads. Then if there is websites match the criteria of advertisers, the ads will show automatically on those websites.
Alibaba’s B2B service already has many users of small and medium enterprises, who would be main advertisers of an ad exchanges, so Alibaba can cross market this new service to those SMEs.
The big players in China are investing and broadening their scope in the online world fast these days. The coming months it will become clear what other websites Google will invest in and I expect Baidu to keep on rolling out new services as well.