Market share of Internet search engines / Source: CNZZ / Graphics: GT
China's two State-backed online search engines, which have long been suffering from weak public usage, were reportedly merged into one and started a trial operation on Saturday.
The new search engine, chinaso.com, is a consolidation of jike.com, launched by People's Daily in 2010 and panguso.com, released by the Xinhua News Agency in 2011, domestic news portal qq.com reported Saturday.
Unnamed sources were quoted by the report as saying that People's Daily and the Xinhua News Agency will jointly manage the merged search engine, with the newspaper's deputy editor-in-chief Ma Li serving as chinaso.com's president while the agency's vice president Zhou Xisheng will be the CEO.
The public relations department of jike.com failed to respond to inquiries from the Global Times by press time. Panguso.com was also unavailable for comment.
The beta version of chinaso.com came online Saturday morning. If users try accessing the jike.com or panguso.com website, they will be directed automatically to chinaso.com.
Zhang Yi, CEO of Shenzhen-based market research firm iiMedia Research, told the Global Times Sunday that he expects the executive team of chinaso.com to be more open-minded and possess stronger insights about Internet development, otherwise the new site may suffer a repeat of the fate that befell its predecessors.
Both the two State-sponsored search engines had weak brand recognition and failed to amass a large enough user base to stand out from the fierce competition.
Jike.com, led by former Olympic ping-pong champion Deng Yaping, had started to shut down core search services in early November 2013.
Financial information for both search engines is not available.
According to Beijing-based Internet data provider CNZZ, the combined market share of jike.com and panguso.com was less than 0.4 percent in January, while Baidu had the largest slice of China's search engine market with a share of 58.33 percent in January.
However, in contrast to domestic rivals, chinaso.com can obtain more access to official data, making it possible to provide exclusive information or news relating to governments as soon as possible, noted Zhang.
According to information from chinaso.com's website, it can provide general search services for news, websites, maps and images, as well as other information including economic, cultural and historical data about China, local restaurant and store reviews, and food safety.
In addition, key words promoted by the search engine are mainly related to hotly discussed news at present.
But, it is difficult for latecomers such as chinaso.com to grab market share, as they lack technological advantages, and Internet users have already formed their search habits on PCs, Zhang Xi, an industry analyst with Analysys International, told the Global Times Sunday.
Qihoo 360 is an exception though, she said, partly thanks to the large user base for the company's anti-virus software and browser.
The Beijing-based online security software developer began offering search services in 2012 and has rapidly grabbed a share of the market to reach 24.85 percent in January from 10.53 percent over the same period of 2013, read the data from CNZZ.
It seems that chinaso.com has already realized there are opportunities in the mobile Internet sector, as it is offering its mobile application on its official website for free download.
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