Chinese search engine Qihoo takes aim at market leader Baidu

May the best Chinese search engine win in the war between leader Baidu and newcomer Qihoo 360.

Internet security service provider Qihoo introduced its 360 search on 16 August, earning a spot as the country's second-most popular search engine behind runaway market leader Baidu within a few days, according to China Radio International (CRI).

And now the hijinks have begun in earnest. Reminiscent of childhood playground antics, the two companies have been pushing each other around, starting with Baidu's forced redirections of results from 360, pulling searchers to Baidu's homepage when they input queries in 360.

In retaliation, Qihoo later removed some of its sub-searches, including news, maps, and MP3s – all of which are Baidu's products – and replaced them with its own, and those of rivals Google and Sogou, CRI reported.

In an announcement on its website, Qihoo said that its new 360 search engine is aimed at injecting new vitality into the Internet search market.

"People want to see effective competition in the market," the announcement said.

Qihoo began developing search engine technology in 2005, but switched over to Internet security before its engine was complete. Now, the new site runs on more than 13,000 servers, with more than 200 billion index pages online, according to Qihoo.

IT think tank Chinalabs.com board chairman Fang Xingdong told CRI that Qihoo has a chance to put a dent in Baidu's long-running dominance of the Chinese search market.

Baidu held 78.6 per cent of the Chinese search market in the second quarter of 2012, according to Analysys International. Google, with 15.7 per cent of the market, and Sogou, with 2.9 per cent, rounded out the top three.

As of July, China boasted more than 530 million Internet users, according to the China Internet Network Information Center. The country's Internet user base is on pace to nearly double itself over the past four years - at the end of 2008, just 298 million users in China had access to the Internet.