China Unleashes Yet Another Attempt At A State-Run Search Portal

The Chinese government has launched a new search site that is reportedly run by the vice president of Xinhua, the Communist Party of China’s official mouthpiece. Called ChinaSo, its logo’s color scheme closely resembles (and that’s putting it charitably) Google’s.

As Tech In Asia notes, ChinaSo is not the first attempt by the Chinese government to create its own search engine. ChinaSo is actually a combination of Jike and Panguso, two state-run search sites that merged last year.

It’s unclear why the government decided to take another stab at launching its own portal. Jike and Panguso saw so little traffic that they didn’t even make analytics firm CNZZ’s list of the top six search engines in China, which means that each had less than 0.2% market share. China’s search market is already dominated by companies like Baidu and Qihoo, which together hold an over 80% share.

Though ChinaSo is probably destined to be ignored, it can be seen as part of China’s ongoing effort to demonstrate that its tech infrastructure’s does not need to rely on foreign companies, an initiative it has been very verbal about. For example, a year ago China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology criticized the country’s reliance on Android even though it is open source because “the core technology and technology roadmap is strictly controlled by Google.”

The Ministry also praised domestic companies like Baidu, Alibaba, and Huawei for developing their own operating systems.

But while China’s startup and hardware industries are gradually cultivating a reputation for innovation, ChinaSo demonstrates that initiatives by its government still have a long way to go.

For example, in January the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which is overseen by the State Council of China, and Shanghai Liantong Internet Technologies launched China Operating System (COS), which is intended for use on both PCs, mobile devices, and set-top boxes. Though the two organizations said COS was independently developed, many observers questioned that claim. As TechNode noted, COS closely resembles Sense, HTC’s Android skin, leading to speculation that HTC engineers had helped with its development.

The Chinese government has had a bit more success with Ubuntu Kylin, an open-source OS that it developed in partnership with Canonical. Released in April 2013, Ubuntu Kylin has been downloaded more than one million times over the past half-year. Admittedly, that number is just a miniscule fragment of China’s 1.35 billion population, but it may quickly increase after Microsoft ends support for Windows XP, currently the most popular OS in China, in April.