Google and Baidu to Form JV in China?

This is unbelievable.



Google and Baidu to form JV in China?

Apr 1, 2010 at 12:08am ET by Danny Sullivan

Apparently, Google’s recent semi-departure from China in reaction to Chinese censorship and hack attacks on its core infrastructure may not have really meant they wanted to ignore the huge-and-growing Chinese market. According to a blog post by a well-known Chinese tech blogger, Google and Baidu plan to form a joint-venture to bring the assets of the number 1 and 2 largest search engines in the world together.

They apparently plan to start first in China and other Asian markets including Japan and Korea. Unlike its relatively unimpeded success in other countries, Google has struggled to succeed in these markets where strong local competitors such as Yahoo! Japan and Naver have continued to dominate. Baidu has also previously shown ambitions to extend their business outside of China, most recently with the relaunch of their service in Japan two years ago. However, they too have failed to make significant inroads outside of their home market.

The post goes on to say that Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Baidu Chairman and CEO Robin Li have secretly met on several occasions to discuss the affair, choosing remote tropical or skiing destinations to avoid prying eyes. The two have apparently formed a close friendship over the course of the discussions. The post speculates that the new service will be named “Baidoogle”. For the record, I think the name is ridiculous and hope they reconsider. Even “Goodu” would be better.


The post by Chinese tech blogger Fuling Yu was originally published on but has since been removed, a process euphemistically referred to as “harmonizing” by Chinese netizens. I’m trying to find another full-text copy as well as more official information and will share with you when I do.


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Danny Sullivan is editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also oversees Search Engine Land’s SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He maintains a personal blog called Daggle, can be found on Facebook, Google Buzz and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.
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Some Funny Google Queries

Now that I'm working on search, I'm always trying queries in Bing and our competitors, and I hear a lot of funny results. Search is hard...

In Google, if you search for "search" you get Bing as the most relevant result. I love it! Even Google thinks Bing is the best choice when people are looking for "search"!



If you search for "french military victories" and click "I feel lucky", you get this:


This has to be a joke by the G guys. Pretty funny though.

[Updated 9/22/2009: OK, so if you look at the URL, for the bottom result, you'll see this is a joke page on a different domain. It's still pretty funny.]

Meaningful Bing Homepage Images

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One of the most unique and enjoyable features in Bing is the custom homepage image we have each day. The photos are usually beautiful and have hotspots that link to interesting web info. (You can check out some of the previous images on the Bing Image Archive.)

Recently, my team in Beijing and Tokyo started doing images and hotspots specific to the Chinese and Japanese markets. I'm especially proud of image we posted today. The school in this photo is in Sichuan province (home of spicy food); it was destroyed in the horrible earthquake last year and rebuilt with the help of MSN China's Rainbow Action effort. Over the next few days we'll use the Bing home page and a series of new photos to drive more attention the survivors of the Sichuan earthquake and encourage people to help them recover. (On a technical note, this is the first time we've commissioned a photo for the Bing homepage; we normally use stock photos.)

Anyway, I encourage you to check it out at and to donate to this effort on the Rainbow Action site (available in English and donations can be made through PayPal.) I'm often proud of the work we do technically, but it makes me even more happy when I can be proud of what Microsoft does for the community.

[Update: 2009-09-01 Apparently the MSN/PayPal collections for this phase are closed for now. It's still worth donating via other means.]

[Update: 2009-09-06 Shrunk the image down to fit on more screens.]

Screenshot of homepage on 9/1/2009. Child blowing bubbles in front of new school in Sichuan.

Farewell to Encarta

Recently, Microsoft announced that we would be ending both the DVD and online editions of the Encarta products on October 31, 2009. I was part of that team when I worked on Bookshelf. I also was the program manager for the first version of Encarta Online.

While I understand why the company made this decision, I'm still sad. The Wikipedia and the broader internet are amazing resources of information, and I love both dearly. However, I think we're losing something with the disappearance of the consistent editorial voice and perspective that products like Encarta had vs. the crowd-sourced, mass view of something like Wikipedia.

What's more, I think kids are losing a huge asset in Encarta. A lot of articles in Wikipedia are simply not written in a way that is understandable to kids. Take for example, the first line of the the articles on carbon dating, which Andrew (11) just had to research.

Encarta Encyclopedia (Carbon Dating): "Carbon Dating, method for determining the approximate age of ancient objects by measuring the amount of carbon 14 they contain."

Wikipedia (Radiocarbon Dating): "Radiocarbon dating, or carbon dating, is a radiometric dating method that uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 (14C) to determine the age of carbonaceous materials up to about 60,000 years."

Even I don't understand all of the words in the Wikipedia article. I'll have to go buy a copy of the last DVD version so the kids have something they can use.

It's also worth looking back at how innovative these reference products were back in the day. The old story about Encarta is that it was a second-rate grocery store encyclopedia (Funk & Wagnalls) dressed up with some multimedia assets. But, it was much more than that. Encarta really revolutionized encyclopedias and helped bring the end of print encyclopedias. It was the first encyclopedia to have comprehensive updates every year (and eventually monthly) and was freed from the constraints of print. (For print encyclopedias to add content to one article, they have to remove text from another one in that volume.)

The team also created different versions for different markets. The creation of local market versions of reference products is a fascinating and challenging topic; you can't just translate articles; different countries have different perspectives on history plus articles have different relative importance. For example, the baseball article in the US should be long and detailed, but it probably shouldn't be more detailed than the cricket article in the British version.

The user interface of Encarta starting in 1995 was also very innovative. It was the first major product to move away from the grey 3D Windows 3.x UI to the more sleek, flat look you see today. It was a huge pain-in-the-butt to develop for our programmers, but I think it was critical to Encarta's success and one of the few good models in Microsoft history of how to let design lead development (vs. the other way around, which is more typical at MS.)

I learned a lot during my time working on Encarta and Bookshelf and have nothing but respect and admiration for my colleagues and friends from that period. I'm proud of what we accomplished, and am sad to see these products fade into the sunset. I hope something else will fill the gap.

Chinese New Year with Live Search

I haven't written too much about my new job in Live Search yet, so I thought I'd share a cool thing we just shipped. The time around Chinese New Year is called Spring Festival (春节 - chun1 jie2). For this year's festival, we've started showing custom background images on the Chinese Live Search home page. As you mouse over the image, little hotspots will appear linking to fun and useful information. This is similar to functionality we have on the US Live Search page, but it's really the first time we've done this kind of thing outside the US. I think the images are really beautiful and worth checking out every day. Here's the first image (click it to see a full sized version):


In addition, we've built a custom page that combines a lot of features we have to help users with their Spring Festival activities. For instance, lots of people travel home to be with their families (it's the largest human migration in the world), so we have a service to search for train tickets. We also have a fun activity built by our partners in Microsoft Research Asia that helps you compose and share couplets (对联 - dui4 lian4)  -- traditional poems. OK, I'm told it's fun. Since I can't really read Chinese, I don't know. Anyway, if you can read Chinese, check out the page at

These are the first of what I hope will many efforts by our team to really make Live Search feel and work like a service really built for Chinese users. I don't think that's the case today with a lot of products built by American companies.

End of a Chapter

Yesterday was my last day on the IE team (see this post for more details on what's next). It was a little emotional for me as people stopped by to chat or dropped me nice and sometimes touching emails. I definitely view my work as more than just a job; I've made a lot of good friends. I've known a lot of them for years, some since they were still in college. It's been very rewarding to see them grow and improve, to share their happiest moments like engagements or child births, and to grieve with them as they lost parents and other family members. I will miss seeing them every day very much.

There were a bunch of nice parting gestures from the team. The day before, my direct reports staged a faux meeting that was really an excuse to drink wine and eat cheese (not hard to get the team to drink). Then, yesterday, some folks on the team changed out one of the road signs we have up to help us navigate our maze of hallways, putting up a "Chor Street" sign. By our elevators, they also put up a life sized photo of me for everyone to sign. It was actually kind of creepy seeing such a huge photo of me. I haven't read the comments yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

Chor and 8th street sign

Later that afternoon, we had a special edition of our normal "Triage Bar" (Friday afternoon drinks) and a quick bite and some beers at Daman's (a kind of divey tavern near work with surprisingly good food). We then headed out to a bar called Vessel in Seattle. Vessel has some of the best cocktails in Seattle including the Vessel 75 -- a bourbon, Peychaud bitters, and simple syrup number topped off with maple syrup foam -- yum. The Ginger Grapefruit Rickey (rum, fresh grapefruit juice, ginger syrup, and soda) was also tasty. We had a pretty big area upstairs to ourselves, and there was a nice (maybe 20+ people) turn out including some IE alumni.

We finished off the evening at the W Bar in the W Hotel where I gave Harel (one of the rising stars on the IE PM team) a quick hands-on lesson about whisky. (Even though he's new to whisky, he's a natural, preferring the more complex and peaty Ardbeg to the Macallan and Johnny Walker Black I had him try for comparison.) All in all, a very fun evening with great friends.

So, next week, I move offices to sit with the Search team in Redmond. I'll be there until mid-November or so when we move to Beijing finally.

Big Changes

Dear readers, I wanted to let everyone know I've accepted a new position as the Group Program Manager for Live Search in Beijing, China.

There are a lot of reasons for this change. Since we were first married, Michelle and I have wanted to live overseas. We both enjoy the broader perspective that working and traveling internationally brings and wanted to really experience that more fully. (Frankly, I think all Americans could benefit from a more worldly view.) I've also been eager to explore my heritage and speak/read Chinese more fluently, as I resolved in my new year's post. I'm also excited to have Andrew (11) and Michael (8) learn more about the world, their heritage, and another language well. I think it will be extra valuable for all of us to have more insight and skills with respect to China for the future.

Professionally, I think Search is a fascinating and important product to unlock the Internet. As good as Live and even Google are today, it's still too hard for most users to get what they're looking for in many cases. It's a critical business for Microsoft to get right; we're obviously way behind here.

I also think that Microsoft needs to master distributed development; there are simply not enough smart engineers who want to live near Redmond to do all of the cool things we want to do. I also think we'd benefit from more local development and more geographic diversity. In particular, I think Microsoft needs to really do a good job in China as that country now has the highest number of internet users and is set to surpass the US in PC users next year.

The combination of our desire, the kids' age, and the great opportunity with Search lead us to consider the move seriously. After our Japan trip this summer, we tacked on a few days to visit China to see houses and schools. I had been to Beijing many times before but had never seen how expats live; Michelle and the boys had never been to Beijing at all. What we saw was acceptable, so we decided to proceed. (In case you're wondering, I couldn't really talk about this stuff earlier and didn't have enough touristy photos of China since we were house hunting, so I didn't post about what we did in China.)

All that said, it's difficult to leave IE. I love the product and the team. I'm incredibly proud of how far we've come since restarting the team five years ago -- from a security nightmare to XPSP2 to IE7 and now the great reviews of IE8 beta 2. The team is more capable and more fun than ever. I definitely feel I'm leaving on a high note and am confident the team will do great things without me.

So, I'll be transitioning to the Live Search team in a few weeks. Then, once our paperwork and visas clear, we'll move to Beijing -- probably around November. This is a three year assignment -- longer if we like it and shorter if we don't, but we do plan to move back. We'll be keeping our house since Michelle and the boys will likely spend summers here, and I'll be back frequently. The kids aren't crazy about the idea yet (what kid wants to move?) but I'm sure they'll have a great time.

I'll blog more about what we're learning about China and how things proceed as we go along. It should be an exciting new experience!

Carbon Grove

My friends Hillel, Jenny, and Walter at Jackson Fish Market built a lovely site called CarbonGrove, a carbon reduction reminder service and launched in Earth Day this year.

You answer a few questions then they give you some tips on how to reduce your carbon emissions. You can then plant one of the beautiful trees Jenny designed and then watch it grow.

One of the cool things they did on the site is build a WebSlice that let's you easily watch your tree grow in IE8. (WebSlices are a new feature in Internet Explorer 8 beta 1 that allow you to subscribe to part of a web page.)

Here's my tree (named "Chortle"):

Check it out!

(Disclosure: my team helped sponsor this project.)

We shipped IE8 Beta 1!

MIX 2008 in 0 Days countdown banner

It's been a crazy week. On Wednesday, my team released the first beta of Internet Explorer 8.0, the next version of our web browser. There's always a flurry of activity leading up to a big event like this -- lots of details to get right, last minute fire drills when something doesn't work right, and so on. Because we were announcing the beta during the opening keynote at MIX08 (no, I didn't go this time, but you can read my backstage account from MIX06 here) we had to have everything ready to go by noon on Wednesday. This added to the pressure since we couldn't slip. There were a huge set of coordinated events that had to happen together. Fortunately, the team pulled it off and everything (mostly) went off without a hitch.

The countdown banner in the photo above hangs above the door to the elevators (you can see our nice neon IE logo too). It originally said "IE8 Beta 1 in n Days" but we had to change it because we were keeping the launch date under wraps and didn't want any visitors to see it (there's a press briefing room on our floor that's used by other teams as well).

Anyway, after the signoff, we started blogging about the release (finally!) starting with the announcement of the release. There was the predictable avalanche of blog comments, bugs, and newsgroup questions to respond to. I think it's pretty fun to interact with the community, although I admit I could do with fewer rude commenters. You'll see replies from me in spurts on the IE Blog posts; I try to jump in whenever I have a few free minutes.

Those of us who weren't at MIX watched the keynote in a conference room and had some sparkling wine. Later in the afternoon, we had a bigger shindig with bbq, drinks, IE8 t-shirts, and two Rock Band setups. The team has been crazy about Rock Band lately; we seem to have it at all of our events and even have had some late night office Rock Band action. It's actually a good way to get to know each other, and it's pretty fun seeing who the good singers and drummers are (harder to tell about the guitar/bass players.) Here's Jason, our Test Manager playing drums (he's actually a drummer but was new to Rock Band.) I love the IE team; we have a lot of fun together.

Jason playing Rock Band

Anyway, it's great to finally be public about IE8 and start talking about it. It's definitely aimed at developers, so we're not showing a lot of cool new end user stuff yet. If you'd like to give it a whirl, you can download it here. On to Beta 2 and release! (And no, I'm not going to say when we're releasing, so don't ask...)