Baidu - often referred to as China's Google - has announced a deal with Microsoft that will see the company's Bing technology used to provide English-language search results on the site.
Google and Baidu used to go head-to-head for a slice of the lucrative Chinese search market, but the US advertising giant pulled out of the race after accusing the country's government of hacking its servers and a fundamental disagreement over censorship of search results. Following Google's departure, Baidu went unchallenged, with current figures suggesting that around 99 per cent of Chinese Internet users search via Baidu.
While Baidu's near-monopoly of the Chinese search market is great news for chief executive Robin Li and his team, it makes it near-impossible for an outside company to get a foothold. Playing to the maxim of 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em', Microsoft has entered into a deal that sees its Bing search engine used to provide the results for English-language searches on Baidu.
It's a win-win scenario for both companies. Currently, Baidu returns Chinese-language results for search terms and sites entered in English, which is far from ideal, so a deal to get English-language results with little effort will help boost the site's usability and popularity. Microsoft, on the other hand, gets a foothold in a market of some 420 million Internet users that it would otherwise never have been able to crack. The fact that it is merely providing results to Baidu should also help shield Microsoft from accusations of censorship that plagued Google's efforts in the country prior to its departure from the market.
The only real loser, it would seem, is Google itself. While the advertising giant still enjoys a massive market share in the west, its penetration of emerging markets is proving poor.
If it wants to continue to grow, that's something it's going to have to address sooner rather than later.