Almost everybody knows that Google is out of China; and that Baidu is the local search engine king. Someone with close eyes on China’s Internet industry may also know smaller local search engines like 360, soso.com or sogou.com. So what is Jike.com?
Formerly named People’s Search, the search engine is a joint venture between People’s Daily, Chinese government’s official newspaper, and People.com, the newspaper’s website. There is a reason why even many of the most savvy Chinese netizens haven’t heard of the name of Jike before this week. According to statistics from CNZZ, a Chinese Internet analytics company, Jike’s share of China’s search engine market is less than 0.0001%, which practically means no one uses its service.
However, Jike’s CEO is one of the best-known names in China, Deng Yaping, a former world ping-pong champion and one of country’s most successful athletes.
The search engine has been at the center of much media attention this week. Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China, was banned from both Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo, two of China’s leading microblogging services, presumably because he openly criticized Jike.com to his more than 30 million followers.
How do China’s always opinionated netizens have to say about all the drama? Despite questions over rumor that Deng threw more than RMB 2 billion yuan into the search engine, and discussions of China’s almighty censor, many netizens offer another theory.
Popular Weibo celebrity 北京厨子 joked about Jike.com: “After observation, I concluded that the whole drama around Deng Yaping and her Jike.com is a marketing campaign.”
No matter whether the series of events (Jike.com, Kai-Fu Lee, Deng Yaping, RMB 2 billion investment, etc.) are a publicity stunt, the site does get a ton of exposure…and surprisingly supporters from Chinese netizens. Like netizen 夏日里的那一场雨 commented: “I will start using Jike to reduce reliance on Baidu.”
Jike’s biggest win so far seems to be the inclusion of an “Exposé Stand” which aggregates news of problematic products, and a dedicated “Food Safety” section that features a rather extensive list of unsafe food products (though one of the unsafe food category is foreign-brand milk powder).
Netizen UFO-JJJ commented: “I tried Jike this morning. Very unique for it to have sections like Exposé Stand and Food Safety.” 酒行商城Linny echoed: “I support Jike. Like its Exposé Stand and Food Safety very much. Better than Baidu which only knows about money.” 大眼树熊 also weighed in: “I don’t know much about Jike and all the drama happened recently, but I see Exposé Stand and Food Safety as soon as I open the site. So far, Jike is the only search engine that I know runs special sections of these two topics. For this one thing alone, Jike has its value.”
It’s unclear that how many netizens will at least give Jike a try, but numbers from Alexa does sort of show Jike is indeed enjoying a sudden surged coming interest.
Good or bad, the never-heard-of Jike.com now becomes the search engine that everybody talks about. And like netizen Angela佳小姐 commented: “Jike gets the best and most effective advertising.”