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Monday, April 5, 2010

Beating Google in China. A Baidu Story

There's been lot written over the last few days about Google's decision to close it's website and redirect users to There's been a lot of applause for Google's "Stand" against China's censorship laws. However the fact remains that despite Google being "In China" for four years (also censoring don't forget), the American company never managed to catch, let alone overtake it's Chinese rival Baidu. When shut down on Monday, it had less than a third of the market share.

So who are Baidu?

Baidu (百度; pinyin: Bǎidù) is one of China's largest companies and offers a range of Chinese language services, aside from search. It actively censors it's content in line with Chinese government regulations. It's 37-year-old founder and chief executive is Robin Li. Prior to founding Baidu, Robin studied and worked in the USA and Dow Jones and Infoseek are among his previous employers. He established Baidu in 2000 with co-founder Eric Xu and led the company public in 2005, a year before Google's entrance into the Chinese market.

According to Robin Li, the name Baidu has the following meaning:

"Many people have asked about the meaning of our name. 'Baidu' was inspired by a poem written more than 800 years ago during the Song Dynasty. The poem compares the search for a retreating beauty amid chaotic glamour with the search for one's dream while confronted by life's many obstacles. '...hundreds and thousands of times, for her I searched in chaos, suddenly, I turned by chance, to where the lights were waning, and there she stood.' Baidu, whose literal meaning is hundreds of times, represents persistent search for the ideal."

Baidu has it's share of controversy and turmoil over the last ten years, with many attacking both it's lax approach to piracy and it's strong censorship policies. Recently, January saw the departure of two top executives, COO Peng Ye and CTO Yinan Li, both for "personal reasons"

However you have to say the future looks bright for the search giant. It's share price closed over $600 for the first time yesterday and the departure of it's foreign rival gives it plenty of room to breathe. It also has no qualms about complying with government regulations and no Moral Crusade to worry about.

The Baidu Story is certainly not over yet.


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