Ten­cent takes on Baidu with news and search

Financial Times USA - - COMPANIES - YUAN YANG AND YINGZHI YANG — BEI­JING

Ten­cent has pushed into news feed and search func­tions in a di­rect chal­lenge to Chi­nese search en­gine Baidu, as the coun­try’s big­gest in­ter­net group ramps up com­pe­ti­tion to keep users within sin­gle plat­forms. The 770m who use WeChat, the dom­i­nant so­cial mes­sag­ing app owned by Ten­cent, re­ceived an up­date on Wed­nes­day plac­ing the two new func­tions on the user in­ter­face. The news feed and search tools pull con­tent only from within WeChat’s walls rather than from the open web, in­clud­ing up­dates posted by in­di­vid­ual users called mo­ments, cor­po­rate ac­counts and a huge col­lec­tion of WeChat ac­counts used by news­pa­pers and in­de­pen­dent blog­gers.

Even though ar­ti­cles pub­lished on WeChat have their own web pages, Baidu is blocked from in­dex­ing them. This means they do not ap­pear in the com­pany’s search re­sults.

“We call it the ‘walled gar­dens’,” said Fang Xing­dong, a free-speech ac­tivist and founder of Chi­naLabs, a web re­search con­sul­tancy. “Users need to go to dif­fer­ent plat­forms to search for con­tent.”

The seg­men­ta­tion of China’s in­ter­net has been ac­cel­er­ated by the rapid rise of smartphone use, as con­sumers ac­cess the in­ter­net via in­di­vid­ual apps rather than a search en­gine such as Baidu.

“Peo­ple spend so much time on WeChat that the so­cial feed and of­fi­cial ac­counts have be­come the main in­for­ma­tion resource for Chi­nese peo­ple,” Mr Fang added.

Ten­cent, Baidu and ecom­merce group Alibaba, China’s three big­gest in­ter­net com­pa­nies, are in­creas­ingly ven­tur­ing on to each oth­ers’ turf in the com­pe­ti­tion for ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue. Baidu re­cently rolled out its own news feed to try to get users to spend more time on its app.

“The dif­fer­ent interests of the big three com­pa­nies make China’s in­ter­net more and more seg­mented,” said Xie Pu, a tech writer.

Alibaba ini­tially blocked Baidu from in­dex­ing web pages for prod­ucts sold on its plat­forms and still makes it dif­fi­cult for links from its ecom­merce Taobao app to be shared on WeChat. Some an­a­lysts be­lieve Ten­cent will even­tu­ally pro­vide WeChat users with full web search ca­pa­bil­ity via its part­ner­ship with Sougou, an­other search provider.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.