When Baidu invested in Qunar in 2010 and asked about vertical search engines, Robin Li, CEO of Baidu, said he believed most users were lazy and would rather visit an all-in-one search service like Baidu for all types of information. Also he was confident that Baidu users would increasingly rely upon its service and brand. His comment on the Qunar deal was that it helped Baidu offer high-quality travel-related information to users.He said he hadn’t seen any vertical search engine that turned out to be successful in the 15 years working on search engine.

Qunar.com was launched in May 2005 as a vertical search engine for travel-related information. Now it filed with the SEC for an IPO on the NYSE. Looking at the user metrics and financials, you’d wonder whether Robin Li still doesn’t think it is or will be a successful business. Li may argue Qunar’s success must to a large extent attribute to the traffic from Baidu or the non-competition agreement reached between the two parties.

Qunar had 203.2 million users, with 39.6 million on mobile, in the 12-month period ended June 30, 2013. Qunar claims it’s the largest non-state-owned travel website in China citing a iResearch report in the prospectus – It’s hard to compete with state-owned monopolies like 12306.cn which is the only official online seller for train tickets.

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Tracey Xiang

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com