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Baidu’s new app Kankan looks like just another search app, but it’s for videos. Photo: Shutterstock

Baidu has a new Douyin and Kuaishou rival called Kankan, but it’s mostly just a video search engine for now

  • With Kankan, Baidu is competing for a larger slice of China’s massive online video market, which has more than 880 million viewers
  • The new app looks and feels a lot like Baidu’s main search app, but it has a focus on short videos and live streaming

China has more than 880 million users of online video platforms, and streaming has been booming this year during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now Baidu is looking for a way to attract more of those users with yet another video app.

The Chinese search giant released a video app this week called Kankan, which means “take a look” in Chinese. For now, the app is little more than a new search app for videos that lets people browse short videos and live streams. And most of the content there is not original.

Many of the videos come from Haokan, one of several other video apps that Baidu previously released, and another Baidu-owned platform called Baijiahao.

Kankan does not even have a brand new design, instead opting for a look very similar to Baidu’s main search app, where you can also find Haokan videos.

Baidu did not immediately respond to a request for comment during China’s national holiday.

Baidu's search app (left) and the new Kankan video app. Photo: Screenshot from Baidu and Baidu Kankan
The focus on short videos and live streaming builds on the enormous popularity of both in China. They are the bread and butter apps like Kuaishou and ByteDance’s Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. Both started as short video apps and later moved into live streaming. Douyin’s daily active users have grown 50 per cent this year, reaching 600 million in August.

Live streaming also got a big boost this year thanks to the pandemic. While people were cooped up at home, many turned to live-streaming e-commerce as a new way to experience products before making a purchase.

Baidu appears to be looking for a way to tap into the popularity of these formats while also playing to its strengths with an app focused on search. But Kankan is entering an already saturated market. China has seen a flood of new video apps in recent years. Some of these apps also come from its deep-pocketed competitors.

ByteDance does not just own Douyin and TikTok, but also Huoshan and Xigua – two apps that had 22 per cent of the short video market in January. Tencent Holdings, which has the Netflix-like platform Tencent Video, also has several competing apps with names like Weishi, Cat Cake and Sound Rabbit. Tencent is also a backer of Kuaishou and the video games live-streaming platforms Douyu and Huya.

Baidu has been playing the same game with its multiple video apps. But the company does not have anything as popular as ByteDance’s apps.

While it is difficult to reach the kinds of numbers that Douyin sees, there are at least plenty of eyeballs to attract. With hundreds of millions of people watching online video in China, even getting a small slice of the pie could prove pretty big.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: New Baidu app targets popularity of live streams