China has a new state-run search engine - but will anyone use it?

ChinaSo will be jointly managed by Xinhua News Agency and People's Daily

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 March, 2014, 8:47pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 March, 2014, 8:59pm

A new state-run Chinese search engine named ChinaSo was revealed on Saturday.

Featuring a multi-coloured logo reminiscent of Google and search functionality for images, video and a variety of provincial, national and international news, ChinaSo is the result of a merger between Panguso and Jike, two rarely used Chinese search engines.

Panguso was originally launched by China’s Xinhua News Agency in 2011, and Jike by People’s Daily in 2010.

A beta version of ChinaSo went online March 1, and internet users attempting to access Panguso and Jike are now redirected to the ChinaSo homepage.

There has not been any official comment on the merger from the publicity divisions of either company.

According to rumours cited by both Sina Tech and Global Times, staff from the People’s Daily and Xinhua News Agency will jointly manage ChinaSo. Xinhua vice president Zhou Xisheng will serve as the site's CEO and People’s Daily deputy editor Ma Li will act as president.

Zhang Yi, CEO of Shenzhen research company iiMedia Research, told Global Times reporters that ChinaSo is similar to its now-defunct predecessors, and will likely grant users easier access to official news reports and information directly from the government.

Zhang added that ChinaSo may face the same struggles as Panguso and Jike, both of which were state-run sites that stringently restricted content and failed to command a combined market share beyond 0.4 per cent.

Chinese internet users had mixed reactions regarding ChinaSo’s reveal. Some called the state-run site a “waste of taxpayer money” while others praised its “clean interface” and welcomed it for providing an “alternative to Baidu”.

“There is nothing wrong with [the government] creating a state-run search engine service,”one Sina Tech commentator wrote. “At the very least, I can use this to find national policy information, and so far the relevant results are much better than other commercial [search engines].”

“[The site] looks like rubbish,” another wrote. “I would rather see Google return to [mainland] China.”

Google’s China services moved from Beijing to Hong Kong in 2013, and the search engine is frequently blocked or difficult to access on the mainland.

Google China currently commands a roughly two per cent market share in the mainland. In comparison, Baidu had a market share of 58.33 per cent in January.