Over a year ago, Google left China because of its refusal to censor search results any longer. It found the Chinese government too restrictive and was not willing to filter results. It was willing, however, to leave the country with the most internet users in the world, a step that, thus far, hasn’t affected Google’s supremacy. This may change as Microsoft and Baidu, China’s largest search engine, plan a partnership to provide China with English search functionality. Could this make Bing the world’s largest search engine?
China has over 420 million internet users – making it the largest market in the world. The US, its next biggest competitor, has about 230 million by comparison. There is a growing need for English search capability, which Baidu admitted it needed help to facilitate. In the US market, Bing has been making incredible strides, and has increased its market share 75 percent in the last year. While it has 14.1 percent of the market, compared to Google’s 65.5 percent (as of May 2011), Bing is generating a tremendous amount of interest. Recent partnerships with Facebook and the launch of Bing for iPad, have helped the young search engine gain traction.
Rob Enderle, principal of the Enderle Group, says that it is possible “that over the next few years Microsoft could, on a worldwide basis, eclipse Google in terms of reach. That would certainly hurt Google.” The key is whether or not Microsoft will be able to monetize English-language searches.
Microsoft still has to contend with China’s rigid censoring of results. Besides Google, Yahoo is well aware of the difficulties presented here. The second-place search engine was made to turn over the identity of a user who had posted material relating to the Tiananmen Square massacre anonymously online. This led to the arrest of the user, Wang Xiaoning, and his resulting torture and 10-year jail term. Bing has a tremendous opportunity – and untold challenges – ahead.