Search for China

Interesting comments on Baidu’s downturn in China:

While most discussions about Project Dragonfly (Google Search for China) focus on ethics or privacy, this perspective seems to be missing – Search as product might no longer be relevant to China users. No?

74% of Chinese online payment is on mobile vs 15% in the U.S. (source)
98% of Internet Users in China are mobile users (source)

From the user behaviors standpoint, unlike US, it’s a totally different climate when the dominant of population are mobile-only users who have never used PC (or web). Search by nature arguably isn’t a strong vehicle in mobile; Apps are. On mobile, people don’t like searching stuff to get jobs done, but instead would browse feeds to consume whatever algorithm throw to them.

From the data aggregation standpoint, Search was born in the era of World Wide Web, and is largely beneficial from the open web. But in the mobile world, each App is an isolated island, and it became difficult for Google to harvest data (I doubt if PWA / Instant Apps only work best with Google’s own ecosystem like Android and Play but struggle to work with iOS Apps).

That said, even Search might not be the best product-market fit for China users, Assistant might have a chance to get it through. Because Assistant is a native form to mobile (or all kinds of devices). I have a hard time to imagine what a success will be looking like for Assistant though. If Assistant can succeed, I think it’s a better product than Search for China’s population.

(Disclaimer – views in the article are my own and have nothing to do with my company.)

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