China's largest e-commerce company Alibaba Group entered the search engine business so that China's leading search engine, Baidu, wouldn't sleep well, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma said over the weekend.
"If Baidu sleeps well then China's Internet users won't sleep well," Ma said during a speech at the company's annual Alifest this weekend.
Competing with the big fish
Alibaba, best known for its Chinese e-commerce websites, launched a beta version of its new search engine last year called eTao.com. This put the company in competition with Baidu, which dominates China's search engine market with an 80 percent user market share, according to CNZZ.com, an Internet analytics web site.
Ma's comment was one of the first times Alibaba has publicly spoken about its intentions for eTao. In June, eTao was made into its own company under Alibaba Group.
Following Ma's comment, Baidu spokesman Kaiser Kuo said the company never obsesses with what its rivals are doing, but instead obsesses with what its users want. "As long as we are able to deliver that, we will sleep just fine," he said.
Both Alibaba and Baidu are the leaders in their respective markets. But even as Alibaba dominates China's e-commerce scene, many of the country's Internet users rely on Baidu to search for products online, according to analysts.
Hoping to fill the gap that was Google
Alibaba's eTao site has been designed primarily as a shopping search engine, allowing users to query for products and group-buying deals. But the site also allows users to search for general webpages as well. eTao's market share, however, is so small that research firms don't list it.
Alibaba's eTao site launched months after Google decided to shut down its search engine for mainland China last year, a move that allowed Baidu to expand its market share to the point it has a near monopoly. Last month, the company faced criticism from a Chinese state-run television network in what analysts said was an effort by authorities to regulate the search giant.