ByteDance has taken another step into search with the launch of a new search portal today. Called Toutiao Search, the portal is part of the website for Toutiao, the news aggregator owned by ByteDance, and currently optimized only for mobile.
Though it is part of Toutiao’s website, the portal is separate from Toutiao’s own search function, which lets users look for news articles and topics within the app. Toutiao Search brings up results from the Web, but like other search engines in China, the results are censored. For example, a search for “Hong Kong,” where large pro-democracy demonstrations are currently taking place, shows only results from state-approved media outlets or ByteDance’s own services, like Xigua Video, Douyin (its domestic version of TikTok) or Toutiao.
Searches for less contentious topics like “restaurant” also return a similar mix of web results and media from ByteDance apps. This means the company’s entrance into the search business not only sets it up as a new competitor to Baidu, which currently holds 76% of the search engine market, Sogou, Bing and 360, but will also help ByteDance drive traffic to all of its platforms. Google’s efforts to re-enter the Chinese market stalled when employees protested against the development of a censored search engine last year.
TechCrunch’s Manish Singh reported earlier this month that ByteDance, currently the most highly valued tech startup in the world, has already hired people from other search companies, including Google, Baidu, Bing and 360. A recruiting post published earlier this month on ByteDance’s WeChat account was the company’s first public announcement that it is building a “universal search engine.”
TechCrunch has contacted ByteDance for more information about the new search portal.