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Baidu Aims To Take On Google And Yahoo In Japan

Leading Chinese language search firm Baidu has launched a Japanese language version of its search engine…

Tokyo -- China’s most popular search engine Baidu.com, which has risen rapidly as Internet use expands in China, aims to overtake Google and Yahoo has finally launched its long anticipated Japanese portal, its executives said on Wednesday.

“Baidu announced its intentions to enter the Japanese search market in December 2006 and began server testing in Japan in March 2007.”

Japan is one of the world’s most connected societies, and we have already seen a positive reception from local users using our beta website, said Jun Masuda, vice president of Baidu’s Japanese subsidiary.

“Following the formal launch of our Japan site, we expect to see even greater user reception to the four different Japanese language services we will offer, including web search, image search, video search and blog search.”

“Baidu Chairman and CEO, Robin Li expressed excitement upon entering the Japanese search market.”

But China’s leading search engine could face tough competition in Japan, where internet is widely used by the people through a variety of devices.

Yahoo is currently the dominating search engine company in Japan. Google comes at the second position.

Baidu, which holds a 70 percent market share in China, has revamped its top page (www.baidu.jp) and expanded its Japanese language services to include blog searches in its quest to break into the world’s second-largest economy.

“We hope to replicate what happened in China,” said Li.

Li did not give a time by which Baidu aims to take top market share in Japan, but he said that in a market where Yahoo and Google hold a combined 80-90 percent share, it could take a while.

“We will be very patient,” he said.

“With Baidu’s strengths in developing user-focused Chinese language search and the qualified team we have on the ground in Japan, and given the success we have already encountered after nearly one year of testing our beta site, we are confident that we can provide a high quality Japanese language search.”

Baidu, a monolithic presence, has about double Google’s search share in China and dominates the landscape. In China there is much less focus on organic search results, requiring advertisers to pay and making for a strong search profit model for the search engine.

Baidu, which has benefited from demand for online advertising in China, is entering talks with Japanese mobile phone carriers about partnering on mobile-based searches, Li said.

It will also consider entering Japan’s consumer e-commerce market, which would likely involve setting up a direct sales team, Masuda said.

The Japanese site is Baidu’s first attempt to win users outside China, where its market share is more than double that of closest rival Google Inc. The Chinese company faces competition in Japan from Google and Yahoo! Japan Corp., which operates the nation’s most visited Web site.

“Independent market surveys put Baidu’s share of the overall China search market at over 60 per cent, compared to less than 30 per cent for Google China.”

But independently gathered data on search behavior in the country is not widely available.

Baidu launched a video search service at the beginning of 2007, and claims that more than nine out of 10 video searches in China use its service.

About 70 percent of Japan’s Web surfers use two or more search engines, and Baidu said that initially it will aim to become the second search engine users turn to.