Top Chinese browser Qihoo ditches Google for own brand search engine

23/08/2012

China's most popular Web browser Qihoo has replaced Google with its own newly launched search engine as default choice. The firm said the move was prompted by a decline in Google's customer service declined since its exit from China in 2010. The new search engine, called so.360.cn, was launched last week. The service replaced Google as the default search engine on Qihoo 360's portal Hao.360.com, which will radically alter the existing structure of Chinese online search engine industry.

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In just five days, the search engine has overtaken Google and Sohu.com's Sogou to become China's second-largest traffic source.

Currently, so.360.com comprises nine main parts: News, Website, Microblogging, Video, MP3, Photo, Map, Q&A and Online Shopping. In addition, baoku.360 is in an integral part of the search engine, providing various software download services.

The news sent Qihoo's US shares up 8% in afternoon trading Tuesday, to a three-month high, while Baidu (China’s leading search engine) shares were down nearly 5%.

Baidu remains the market leader with almost 80 percent of China's domestic search traffic.

Although Qihoo users will still have the option to select Google's search service, it is likely that the switch will make users use Qihoo's own service.

Google's customer service had also declined since making its decision to leave China in 2010, and Qihoo's aim was to provide a quality search engine for its users, the firm claimed.

Google still operates offices in China after leaving the country, but its search and other services such as Gmail are often disrupted by the government's Web filtering system.

In April this year, the search engine's co-founder Sergey Brin admitted that he underestimated China's ability to filter online information and is concerned about efforts of repressive states such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran to censor and restrict information online.

In a separate statement Tuesday, Qihoo announced that its second quarter net profit dropped 37 percent to US$7 million.

This missed analyst forecasts of US$10.1 million, despite revenue more than doubling to to US$72.8 million. The drag on the bottomline was largely due to a spike in spending to add services, such as its recently launched search engine.

Qihoo 360 Technology is a Beijing-based software company known for its antivirus software (360 Safeguard) and Web browser (360 Browsers).

It was founded by Zhou Hongyi and Qi Xiangdong in August 2006. As of March 2012, Qihoo's security products had 411 million active users, and 273 million users were using 360 Browsers by the end of Q1 2012.

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