Chinese rival bolsters search engine against Baidu with Alibaba partnership

Qihoo 360's search engine is taking market share from Baidu

China's Baidu has long dominated the country's search market. But a local rival to the company is bolstering its own search services with the help of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.

On Wednesday, Qihoo 360 appeared to debut a new shopping search service in partnership with Alibaba's advertising platform. The service is listed as a tab on Qihoo 360's search engine, now China's second largest behind Baidu.

Qihoo 360's newest product was built from the infrastructure of Alibaba's own shopping search engine called eTao, said Alibaba Group spokeswoman Dora Chai. eTao works by helping users compare products for the best price.

Qihoo 360 said in an email it launched the new shopping service to address the growing number of Internet users buying products online. "A shopping search is a major demand Internet users want when they use a search engine. So 360 search will not ignore this need," the company added.

Launched last August, the company's search engine has been slowly taking user market share away from Baidu. In April, Qihoo 360 had a 14 percent share of the market, while Baidu had a 70 percent share, according to Internet analytics site CNZZ.com.

Qihoo 360 is best known as a security software vendor in China, but its also gained notoriety for its disputes with Baidu and other Internet firms in the country. In November, both Qihoo 360 and Baidu signed a pact to compete fairly in China's search sector after the two companies feuded over search indexing.

Since then, Qihoo 360 has been steadily adding new products to its search engine, including a medical service to help users find treatments for various illnesses. But in terms of advertising revenue, the company's search engine generates little in sales, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys International.

Qihoo 360's new shopping service, however, could help the company monetize some of its Web traffic. The service is meant to direct Qihoo 360's users to advertisers on Alibaba's e-commerce sites via eTao. Both Qihoo 360 and Alibaba will share revenues from the partnership, according to company spokeswoman Dora Chai.

Baidu also has its own shopping search engine as well. But the company has struggled to break into e-commerce. Last year, its online shopping joint venture with Japanese Internet giant Rakuten closed its Chinese site after failing to meet expectations.

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