Google losing users in China: study

Google Inc. is losing market share in the Chinese search market to local rival Baidu Inc.

Fewer Chinese users are seeking out Google for its search services, according to a new report by the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC).

According to the survey by China's official Internet number cruncher, 62.1 percent of Chinese users turned to local favorite Baidu for search, up from about 52 percent in 2005. Much of that growth came at Google's expense. Baidu also had the highest brand recognition among search engines, with 86.5 percent of respondents identifying with the name, compared to only 64 percent for Google.

CNNIC is an agency organization that monitors Internet use in China. Although its surveys are considered representative of Chinese Internet use, CNNIC rarely releases its methodology or sample size. However, for this survey, CNNIC said that it interviewed 4,500 total Chinese Internet users, 1,500 each in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, and that the poll had a 5 percent margin of error.

Google saw its market share drop from 33 percent last year to 25.3 percent in the current survey. While a majority of users identified with the brand, 31.9 percent recognized Google's Chinese name, "Gu Ge," or "Harvest Song," in Chinese, compared to 16.3 percent for its English name. Google did come out ahead in one respect: it was the first choice for more non-student users with an income of greater than 3,000 renminbi (US$378) than its rivals, with 46.5 percent.

Despite the rivalry between Baidu and Google, it seems that a bigger user search pie would benefit both: 76.3 percent of survey respondents said they used more than one search engine regularly for a given subject.

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