Google versus Baidu, on both sides of the big firewall

30 Aug 2018
Baidu is the most popular search engine in China, as well as the third biggest company on the country's digital market.

Founded by Robin Li in 2000, almost two years after the launch of Google, Baidu now controls 70% of the online research market in China, and has thus become an indispensable tool for both mobile and desktop use. Other search engines like Shenma, Sogou and 360 share the remaining 30% of the market.

For Google, however, penetration of the Chinese market remains a challenging game. Since 2010, the search engine has been subject to the censorship of the Great Firewall imposed by the Chinese government. Its search services and proprietary platforms, like Gmail and YouTube, have been made inaccessible to the public. Despite these difficulties, Google, fully aware of the potential offered by China, started project Dragonfly at the beginning of September 2017. The aim is to create a search engine that meets the requirements of the Chinese government, by adapting the search algorithms to the topics to be censored and by excluding permanently blocked sites. At the moment, the ethical and political compromise seems the only possible solution for the Mountain View giant.

Both companies mainly generate revenues via online advertising services, although Google's offer is more diversified and continuously expanding, when compared to its Chinese rival. According to the financial reports for the second quarter of 2018, Baidu's revenues grew 32% year-on-year, for a total of $ 3.93 billion USD. At the same time, even its daily active users have increased by 17% compared to the previous year, reaching 148 million. The CEO, Robin Li, has confirmed the company's strong growth thanks to the monetization achieved by using of Artificial Intelligence technologies.

A witness to the interest in this and other new technologies has been the "Baidu AI Developer Conference 2018 ". The company's annual conference, which focusses on artificial intelligence, enjoyed considerable success in terms of participation and announced several projects (Baidu Brain v3.0, Kunlun, DuerOS etc.). It's no coincidence that Forbes has included the company in their list of "50 Most Innovative Companies ".

In the near future, we'll also see the first results of a strategic partnership between Baidu and China Mobile. The aim of the collaboration is research into autonomous driving and development of the potential for an Internet of Things.

Baidu has been able to assert its leadership on the Chinese market. However, its presence globally is marginal, whilst Google holds almost the entire market share.