Microsoft Teams Up With Chinese Search Giant

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has signed a deal to provide English-language results to China's dominant search engine, Baidu. It's sure to re-ignite a debate about the country's attitude to online censorship.

According to Baidu, around 10 million English-language searches are carried out on its site every day, and it admits it doesn't do a good job of handling them. Under the new deal, results for such searches will be powered by Microsoft's Bing engine. (Source:

The precise details of the arrangement are being kept confidential, though at least one report states no money is changing hands. The most likely set-up is that there is some kind of split of advertising revenue from the English results, though it's not clear if Microsoft would sell its own ads and pass a share on to Baidu, or vice versa.

Another benefit to Microsoft is that it will be able to better its brand in China.

Search Results Likely to be Censored

The move will be controversial, given China's strict censorship policies that not only ban mention of many topics on domestic sites, but involve a national "firewall" filter that blocks many overseas pages from being viewed at all.

That was at the heart of a recent decision by Google to pull its search services out of the country, albeit in a largely symbolic way. Previously, Google had complied with demands to remove offending pages, such as descriptions of the Tiananmen Square massacre, from its search results.

Hong Kong Workaround Makes Little Difference

Last year the company began rerouting queries to a server in Hong Kong, from which it made all results available. However, any users from China who clicked on the contentious results were blocked by the filter.

This means that there's no substantial change in the availability of the sites to the Chinese, but Google isn't directly complicit in the censorship. That move itself was controversial, as it appeared to be sparked as much by Google servers being hacked, allegedly with some government involvement or backing, as by support for free speech.

The company does remain active in China, selling banner advertising; those ads that appear directly on a site and appear the same way for all users. (Source:

Microsoft hasn't yet spoken about whether the results it supplies to Baidu will be censored, though that does seem virtually inevitable for the deal to be worthwhile.

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