Chinese tech giant Baidu has shut down the Japanese search engine that it first launched in 2007. The Baidu.jp site, which used to feature a Japanese-language search engine that hoped to rival Google and Yahoo in the country, now just features a mission statement and a bunch of email addresses for its business partners to reach out to.
A Baidu spokesperson confirmed today to Tech in Asia that the Baidu Japan search engine is now shut. “[B]ut that doesn’t preclude the possibility that we will bring it back one day, or introduce our search technology services through other platforms in Japan,” he added.
This is our screenshot of the site from 2011 when we reported on how it was losing money:
The Baidu.jp search engine actually closed on March 16, the spokesperson said. But it seems that few people have noticed the closure and it hasn’t yet been reported on – a rather awkward indicator of how unsuccessful the venture was. “It’s no secret that Baidu’s Japanese search engine never got much traction. As we stopped updating the index in 2013, search user numbers in the last year or so have been insignificant,” conceded the spokesperson.
Despite this setback, Baidu is keeping open its Japan office and pursuing its popular Simeiji app, which is a keyboard for iOS and Android for typing Japanese.
“This was a business decision based largely on Baidu’s company-wide effort to focus our energies on becoming a fully mobile-first company,” said the Baidu spokesperson. “This means increasing our commitment to mobile and O2O when and where it’s most appropriate. In the Japanese market specifically, this move makes a lot of business sense. Smartphone penetration in Japan is now over 70 percent, and it’s a largely iOS-dominated market – over 60 percent market share as of December 2014. Our iOS input app Simeji is very popular, with over 14 million users and and a top-ranking position on Apple’s App Store in Japan. That’s just one example of the mobile potential of the Japanese market.”
Though Baidu Japan opened in 2007, it required a relaunch in 2008 after a shaky start. Yahoo Japan is the nation’s top search engine, followed by Google.
Baidu’s search engine for Japan was the first attempt to take its core business outside of China – and for a long time it remained the only such spin-off. More recently, Baidu changed tack to focus on emerging markets where new users could be more easily won over. Baidu launched its second foreign market search engine in July 2014 in Brazil, and others for Thailand and Egypt appear to be in development.
Aside from its search engine, Baidu is also slowly going global with an array of utility apps – things like anti-virus, web browsers, app stores – in mobile-first nations such as Thailand and Indonesia.
See: For Chinese tech companies venturing overseas, China is a toxic brand
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