Photo: IC Photo
It’s long been rumored that ByteDance, the Chinese unicorn that founded news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, is seeking to challenge internet behemoth Baidu’s de facto search engine monopoly. Earlier this month, the company published a hiring advertisement on its official WeChat public account that suggested a general search engine was in the works.
Those rumors now seem well-founded after ByteDance quietly rolled out mobile-friendly search engine Toutiao Search late last week.
Toutiao Search, whose stripped-back design recalls that of American search giant Google, seems likely to be integrated into the Toutiao app. Its top search results already privilege products and services from ByteDance’s ecosystem or those of its long list of partners.
Baidu is currently China’s largest search engine with more than 75% of the country’s market share. Second-placed Sogou trails with 11%.
Yet in recent years, Baidu’s search service has occasionally drawn a public outcry. In 2016, for instance, a sponsored search result promoting an experimental and unproven cancer treatment led to the death of Wei Zexi, a 21-year-old patient.