Perhaps the most discussed topic during my dissertation trip in China was Baidu’s decision to enter the Japanese search engine market in January 2008. It was the first thing that came to mind of just about everyone I spoke with on the topic of my study. Following a nearly year long study of Japanese-language search technology and localization, Baidu’s expansion plans were first announced at the end of 2006. In a reaction on earnings for the fourth quarter in February 2007, Robin Li said the company would spend $15 million, 14 percent of Baidu’s total budget in 2007, trying to replicate its home market success in Internet-savvy Japan.

Getting Started in Japan

Earlier in May 2006 Baidu had announced a hiring plan to search for Japanese and Vietnamese search talents and product managers to be in charge of know-how on the local competitive market as well as local cultures. Rumors at the time were that Baidu had already hired several Korean search engineers. Nearly a year after the first signs of Baidu expanding to other Asian markets on March 20 2007 a test version of Baidu.jp was launched. The site runs on servers located in Japan and straight from the start it turned out that the site was mainly getting visitors from China looking for content they can’t find on Baidu’s Chinese site. According to Alexa, at the time the share of Chinese users visiting Baidu.jp nearly reached 60 percent (of which 76 percent were visitors searching for pictures) compared with less then 30 percent of the visits coming from Japan. In a reaction on the launch of Baidu.jp, that was still in beta at the time, the purpose of the bulk of the Chinese visitors is well illustrated: “It is really very good, but nothing stunning for other countries, especially Japan which has a large, specialized po r nography industry. Still this is huge for China!” Not surprisingly even before its official launch in January 2008 when more Japanese language services including a blog search application were added, Baidu.jp was blocked in China in April 2007, less then a month after the first launch.

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Gang Lu

Dr. Gang Lu - Founder of TechNode. He's a Blogger, a Geek, a PhD and a Speaker, with passion in Tech, Internet and R'N'R.