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百度一下:Business Ethics

Joel on October 21, 2008 - 7:13 am in Archive, Companies to Observe

Instead of “Googling it,” the vast majority of Chinese netizens (internet citizens) would rather 百度一下 (Baidu yi xia). Founded in October 1999, Beijing-based Baidu is the leading internet search engine in mainland China (pronounced BYE DUE). According to recent CR Nielsen figures ranking top Chinese websites by number of unique browsers, Baidu was number one overall with 171 million, Google (China) ranked number four with 81 million and Yahoo (China) was ranked a distant number eleven with 39 million.

Despite being a NASDAQ listed company, Baidu faces controversy about its level of respect for international intellectual property rights protection.

On a very superficial level the Baidu interface is strikingly similar to Google’s:

More importantly, Baidu has recently come under greater pressure related to one of its commonly used search features. Similar to Google’s advanced search options like “Images” or “Maps” searches, Baidu offers an additional customized search for MP3s. Users can type in virtually any song title and a results list will pop up with sites where you can download the songs at different speeds and file types.

Recent evidence suggests that Baidu is actually connected to these websites that are providing the illegal downloads. If this truly is the case, then there may be serious consequences for the overseas listed company. To read more, see this excellent post from Silicon Hutong. There is a great follow-up section that questions the ethics of doing business with a company that is actively violating the law.

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