A War Between Two Chinese Internet Giants: Baidu and ByteDance
COVID-19 and China
A war between Baidu and ByteDance. Photo: Credit to Pixabay and EqualOcean.

A war between two Chinese internet giants, Baidu and ByteDance, has been lasted for several years, mainly fighting for copyrights and gaining competition advantages. Recently, an event attracted public attention again.

On April 26, The World Intellectual Property Day, Baidu initiated a lawsuit against ByteDance on the grounds that ByteDance had stolen its research result, which was regarded as illicit competition by Baidu. Baidu requested that ByteDance must stop stealing behavior immediately, and asked for compensation in related economic losses and reasonable expenses totaled CNY 90 million (USD 13.37 million) from ByteDance, as well as apologizes on ByteDance’s APP and website homepage for 30 consecutive days.

At the same day, Douyin, the short video product of ByteDance, also initiated a lawsuit against Baidu on the grounds that Baidu had stolen quantities of videos from Douyin. And Douyin proposed the same claim on compensation.

Before 2018, Baidu and ByteDance don’t seem like the direct competitor with each other. Baidu is the biggest website and search engine in China, while ByteDance is more like a content platform. However, it changed from 2018.

Baidu enters the short video market

ByteDance has been the champion in the short video market in China for many years, depending on its several short video applications including Douyin, Xigua and Huoshan. Among them, Douyin is definitely the top one with 250 million domestic daily active users (DAU) by the end of January, 2019, according to ZHANG Nan (张楠), the president of Douyin.

TikTock, the overseas version of Douyin developed by ByteDance, also had great performance all over the world from launched in the summer of 2017. It has been launched in more than 150 countries with more than 500 million monthly active users (MAU), and ranked download volume first in the local AppStore or Google Play list in Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Germany, France, Russia, etc., according to ByteDance.

However, ByteDance has to compete with many other players. Except from its biggest peer, Kuaishou, which ranks second in MAU followed behind of Douyin, Baidu is another potential strong peer, which launched two short video applications in 2018, namely Haokan (好看视频) and Quanmin (全民小视频).

Haokan is a short video app, offering a wide variety of user generated and professionally produced content often in coordination with multiple platform networks. Haokan allows users to upload, view, search, rate, share, favorite, comment, and follow. Video content creators and curators can distribute their content to build a fan base and receive revenue share for their content contribution.

Quanmin is a flash video app for users to create and share short videos, usually less than one minute long with the following orientation: musical, dance, comedy, acting and lip-sync, and live videos. Users can shoot or upload flash videos and edit them with built-in special effects, filters and stickers. Contents are distributed in personalized timeline powered by Baidu AI recommendation algorithms.

In Dec. 2018, Haokan ranked fifth among short video applications with 75.01 million MAU, while Quanmin ranked ninth with 23.02 million MAU, according to QuestMobile.

According to Baidu's financial report, Baidu has increased spending in channel and brand marketing over the last year, to increase awareness and drive traffic growth for the family of Baidu apps, including Baidu App, Haokan and Quanmin. As of Dec. 2018, Baidu App’s DAU increased to 161 million, with a year-on-year increase of 24% and a growth of 6.62%. Thanks to the growth of these three apps, Baidu’s network flow users grew by 112% year-on-year.

To promote these three apps, Baidu won the bid for 2019 CCTV Spring Festival Evening Exclusive Interactive Platform, and gained lots of flow. According to Baidu, the amount of global audiences interactions in Baidu App reached 20.8 billion times, and the peak of Baidu App’s DAU exceeded 300 million in 2019 Spring Festival . On every list of apps market, these three apps’ downloads skyrocketed in this period.

depending on its research flow and financial resource, Baidu has advantages to realize high-speed development in short video business. Although the user amount of Haokan and Quanmin is far less than Douyin at present, Baidu is possibly a strong competitor of ByteDance in the future.

ByteDance launches search function

In March of this year, Toutiao, the news and information content app of BtyeDance, launched search function. Users can search the information in Toutiao, which is from Toutiao itself and other sources, including Baidu. That’s why Baidu initiated a lawsuit against ByteDance.

Baidu is the largest Chinese search engine all around of world. Many Chinese network companies have ever developed search engines to compete with Baidu, including Youdao, iAsk, Jikesoso, QQ Search, etc, but most of them failed. Sogou is the only one that develops well today, but it’s not strong to compete with Baidu. So how can ByteDance make any difference?

Based on the abundant content generated by users these years, Toutiao launched search function in it at first, by which users can search some topics. However, it has to provide the search service from all websites if it wants to satisfy its users’ different search demand. So it realized now.

As one of the best media platforms on content personalized recommendation, Toutiao has accumulated more than 200 million users. Based on its users, ByteDance developed other products very fast, such as Douyin, Xigua, Huoshan and Neihanduanzi, among which Douyin’s users amount has surpassed Toutiao from June last year. So will its search function develop as fast as ByteDance’s other products and bring more users and flow to it?

Compared with Baidu, Toutiao is better on users loyalty. Most users may take a look and find something interesting in Toutiao, because users regard Toutiao as a content platform which know what they like. But users won’t do it in Baidu, which is only regarded as a search engine by most of its users. In this respect, Toutiao has great opportunity.

However, there is some technical problem for search function that ByteDance needs to solve, including semantic analysis, information storage, Precise content matching, etc. One staff from Baidu said that users can find the difference between Baidu and Toutiao if search some specific information about life. Baidu performs better in term of content matching.

The war between these two companies is ongoing. Each of them has advantages to develop these new businesses, but they face some difficulties as well. Let’s see who will make it.

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