Qihoo 360’s grand ambition to take on China’s search giant Baidu came one step closer to being realized this week with the launch of 360.etao.com, a Chinese language online shopping search engine which was developed in partnership with e-commerce giant Alibaba.
An alliance between Qihoo 360 and Alibaba is part of a major realignment in China’s digital space. Both Qihoo 360 and Alibaba also have alliances with Sina, the operator of China’s hugely popular but not very profitable micro-blogging service. On Baidu’s side of the trenches are Tencent (China’s biggest internet company) and Sohu, who operate instant messaging and web portal services, respectively.
At times, the rivalry to buy up other firms and offer competing services has gotten pretty heated. In January Qihoo 360’s Apple apps were taken down and it was issued with an unfair competition warning from Chinese authorities (announced via Sina Weibo, incidentally) for including anti-virus software in its web browser. The company reacted by accusing Baidu of “lure[ing] users to change browsers” and has also previously accused regional courts of showing provincial protectionism.
As The Next Web reported in November last year, mere months after Qihoo 360 entered the search market, the Chinese government called all major search companies together to have them sign a “self-discipline agreement” in an attempt to impose fair competition. It wasn’t the first time the state intervened, and judging by the battle lines being formed, it won’t be the last.