Microsoft have decided to step into China just a year after their arch rivals, Google, pulled out. Baidu is China’s leading search engine which currently only provides web search in Chinese.
Google pulled out of China because it was not willing to allow the Chinese government to dictate what could and could not be shown in Google search or on the Internet. Google firmly believes that a good search engine can be fully automated and does not allow manual intervention to remove results (although some SEO’s believe that this is not the case).
Microsoft has been plodding along in Google’s shadow for many years now. It launched Bing 2 years ago as an attempt to give a Internet search a refreshing new look, but mostly it has failed to win over any of the market from Google. For Microsoft / Bing partnering with Baidu means that they can reach a much larger audience very quickly.
Baidu controls around 83% of all Chinese search in China and has been trying to improve its English language search engine for some time. Baidu currently received around 10 million English language searches every day, so the demand is certainly there for an improved service.
It is expected that the new Baidu-Bing search engine will be live by the end of this year. It is also expected that there will be Chinese censorship of the results. Microsoft have stated that they “operate in China in a manner that both respects local authority and culture“, which sounds pretty much like they are willing to censor results to win the business.
Is censored search ethical? It is a tricky decision to make. Any parent who has set up software to block certain web content knows that sometimes censorship is a good idea and something which a responsible parent must do to protect. Does the same rule apply to governments? China would like all computers to be equipped with rose tinted LCD screens to ensure that its people do not learn how the country operates. Is Bing really willing to play along?