Microsoft and Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group are testing a new search service that could offer Chinese users an alternative to major player Baidu and struggling Google, according to the Associated Press.
A beta of the new Etao search site came online this past weekend teaming up Alibaba's e-commerce search engine with a Chinese-language edition of Microsoft's Bing search engine. The new site joins the search engines on Alibaba's current e-commerce sites Taobao.com and Alibaba.com and has been set up to drive people to the Alibaba.com online retail store, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Taobao is the largest e-commerce Web site in China, says the Journal, accounting for 75 percent of all e-commerce transactions in the country as of the second quarter. The company expects to double its numbers to take in 400 billion yuan ($60 billion) this year. In a further twist, Alibaba is 40 percent owned by Yahoo and runs Yahoo's Chinese search engine. So the new venture could also serve to lessen Yahoo's involvement with Alibaba, according to the Journal, at the same time it gives Bing more of a stepping stone into China.
But Etao will face competition in Chinese's growing search engine market. As the dominant search engine, Baidu owns around 70 percent of the market. Google's share in China has slowly dwindled as the company moved its operations to Hong Kong as a way to get past Chinese censorship regulations. But Google's search engine is still available in mainland China where it holds a 24 percent market share in the country.
China's Xinhua News Agency is even getting into the act. The state-run agency recently announced that it's launching a new search engine company with local carrier China Mobile.