If you look into the landscape of Chinese social media, you may realize that in each sector of Chinese web, portal, video-sharing, e-commerce, social networks etc usually has more than one big local players. For portals, you have Sina, QQ.com, 163, Sohu as top 4, for video sites you have Youku, Tudou, Ku6 and so on. There is only one exception, which is Search. Baidu is no doubt the dominator of the search market. However, Baidu has its weakness. For example, you may find that on Baidu, it’s hard to search for the important information (price, where to buy etc) about a product that you want to buy, at least it usually gives you little information about whether you can buy it on Taobao.

Taobao is leading e-commerce site in China, so obviously it has its own ideas about search. In fact it has started testing the water.

Four search services have been launched recently: Taobao Search, eTao, TaotaoSou and the very latest one TuXiang which was quietly launched yesterday.

Taobao Search is the major search engine which is integrated with Taobao platform for a long time.

eTao, launched last month is the first independent search engine from Taobao. If you search for “iPad” on eTao, it can not only return you the information (the price for reference, the sellers’ information etc) from Taobao and Taobao Mall, but also tell you that people who searched ‘iPad’ what they bought in the end. eTao also provides you with product-related news, social-buzz from BBS, images etc. Furthermore, Taobao even launched its open search platform where third-party e-commerce sites can submit their products to eTao in order to be searched.

TaoTaoSou is an image-based search engine launched in March 2010, got invested by Taobao in April. On TaoTaoSou, you can either upload an image of the product you want to search for or give the url of that image, it will return you the information of products on Taobao, 360buy, Vancl etc which ‘look’ like that product.

TuXiang launched yesterday (invitation-only) even makes the product search more fun. It uses TaoTaoSou’s image-based search engine at backend, and presents the result in a more visual graphic interface.

All designed for e-commerce. If there is going to be battle against Baidu, then it has not started, but Taobao is obviously preparing for it.

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.

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