I can’t think of any reason to like Baidu.  It pretty much represents all the things China needs to get rid of to be successful.  I will concede that it does seem to offer a lot MORE results than Google (in Chinese), but they aren’t especially good.  Here’s my beef with the king of Chinese search engines:

  • Ripping off another (better) website

China, for all it’s developments, is stereotyped as being a very un-innovative place.  Baidu helps sustain this stereotype by ripping off Google pretty well.  You’re telling me that out of 1.4 billion people you can’t find one web designer who can come up with a new interface?  See below for some examples on how Baidu pretty blatantly ripped off Google’s design.

Home pages bear an uncanny resemblance

Search results, add placement, all very similar...

  • No respect for intellectual property

China has a bad reputation for copying other products for sure, but it also has a bad rep for failure to enforce any semblance of IP law.  Pirated CDs, DVDs, and books are ubiquitous; it is universally easier to find the pirated version than it is to find the genuine one.  The same extends to digital media too.  While Google no doubt displays search results when someone searches “download free software”, they are not directly involved in the distribution. Baidu MP3 is a music search engine that lets you download countless copyright protected MP3s for free.  To be fair, the actual files are hosted on other networks.  But Baidu no doubt makes a killing on advertisements placed during music searches.  If Google made a site that allowed you to download Hollywood films for free, people would go crazy.

  • Plagarism/Lack of Citation:

Moving on to Wikipedia’s Baidu equivalent, the poor legal and ethical practices continue.  Baidu is proud to boast how their online encyclopedia has over twice as many entries as Wikipedia, and how the company “understands China better.”  Let’s compare today’s article of the day (“The Big Bang”) from Chinese Wikipedia to Baidu Baike’s version:

The Big Bang

Even if you don’t understand Chinese, look carefully at the first paragraph in both entries.  You’ll notice that they are, word for word, the same article.  The only difference is that the Wiki article has 4 citations, while the Baidu has none.  The Wiki article has 73 citations, in fact.  Baidu Baike has zero.  With this in mind, I think it’s pretty clear who is copying whom.

Expansion of the Universe

Clicking on that side image of the universe expanding yields two very different pages.  The Wiki page has information about the free usage licence, and the version history below describes who made changes and who created the original document.  The Baidu version has a “contributor” listed as the author of the image.  Additionally, the bottom of the page says “2010 © Baidu”.  So Baidu is claiming a copyright on an unattributed, open source image.

There are thousands of articles and images just like this.  I am sure Wikipedia also has articles copied verbatim from Encyclopedia Britannica, but it also has an army of volunteer editors that add little (citation needed) tags to claims that must be substantiated.

Good article in Business Week related to this topic here.

  • Self-Censorship:

  • Google undoubtedly censors some of its search results, even to American audiences.  However, they have also ignored requests to censor anti-Semitic search results, and probably will lose a boatload of money in the long run by pulling out of China.  Has Baidu ever stood up for the rights of its users?  Or to protect freedom of speech?  On the contrary, leaked memos from Baidu detail huge lists of keywords that won’t return search results or encyclopedia articles.  Baidu’s founder Robin Li has gone on the record saying Google is wrong to uncensor its results, and complains about the added cost of self-monitoring to his company’s margins.  Boo hoo.  I hope when the revolution comes, Mr. Li is considered a Quisling.

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