Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish Ready for Stock Market Debut

Filed under
Web takes its name from a 900-year-old poem but its ambitions are ultramodern - to become the Chinese-language equivalent of Internet search giant Google Inc. Little known abroad, 5-year-old says it already is the world's sixth most-visited Internet site, thanks to a strong following from China's 100 million-plus Web surfers.

Now the startup founded by two Chinese veterans of American tech firms is preparing to follow Google's example with an initial public offering in the United States, hoping to raise $45 million. A date for the offering has not been announced. is in the front ranks of an emerging group of Chinese companies that are trying to create Internet services uniquely suited to their country's ideogram-based language and the political restrictions of its communist government.

"Here's a homegrown company that has created what really is a very strong search product," said David Wolf, managing director of Wolf Group Asia, a Beijing-based consulting firm. was founded in 2000 by Robin Li, who earned a master's degree in computer science from the State University of New York at Buffalo and worked for U.S. search engine firm Infoseek, and Eric Xu, a Ph.D. from Texas A&M and a veteran of American biotech firms. Xu is no longer with

The name - pronounced "by doo" - means "one hundred times." It comes from a Song dynasty poem and refers to a man ardently searching for his lover in a festival crowd.

It didn't take Google long to see the firm's potential. It bought 2.6 percent of last year in a move that outsiders thought might lead to the American search engine taking over the tiny Chinese startup. But has stayed independent.

Google's influence shows, though, in's spare white Web site that is nearly identical to its investor's.

By contrast, competitor - bought in 2003 by U.S.-based Yahoo! - is a busier, colorful site with animated graphics.

Other early backers include U.S.-based venture capital firms with a reputation for spotting promising newcomers: Draper Fisher Jurvetson -'s biggest shareholder, with a 28 percent stake - and the investment arm of International Data Group.'s IPO is modest beside the $1.2 billion that Google raised through its public offering last August. But its tentative price for the block of shares being offered values the whole Chinese company at $650 million.

The company says it is already making money - some $303,000 for the three months that ended on March 31.

China's communist government promotes Internet use for business and education. But it has also launched sweeping efforts to police online content, blocking access to material deemed subversive or pornographic.

The extent of the censorship controls has been highlighted by the changes that foreign companies make when they launch Chinese versions of commonly used services.

Free-speech activists criticized Microsoft Corp. when the blogging section of its recently launched China-based Web portal rejected such words as democracy, freedom and human rights, labeling them "forbidden language."

A search on Google's China-based service for such topics as Taiwan, the Dalai Lama or the banned spiritual group Falun Gong returns a message that says "site cannot be found."

And communist leaders, early believers in the Internet's economic promise, seem intent on keeping foreign involvement to a minimum in order to keep the profits for China's own firms.'s decision to stay independent could help it with intensely nationalistic Chinese regulators, eliminating any doubts about divided loyalties, said Wolf.

"It's a company that has grown up in the Chinese system. It's going to be a favorite of a lot of partners here and an implicit favorite of the government for that reason," he said.

Internet firms with foreign partners have been challenged by regulators who demand assurances that Chinese managers will stay in place and not surrender control to outsiders., and other Chinese search engines also face daunting linguistic challenges that designers working in English and most other languages don't.

Chinese uses thousands of ideograms. On a computer, they usually are written by typing words phonetically in Roman letters, then using special software to convert them to characters.

Making things even more complex, the mainland's communist leaders simplified many characters after the 1949 revolution, while Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and other societies use the old system.

So a search engine must sift through twice as many characters. And Chinese is written without spaces between words, making it hard for a machine to figure out where one ends and the next begins.

Then there are the quirks of a writing system with a vast literary history, 1 billion modern users and pressure to keep up with technology and international commerce.'s advertising notes that Chinese has 38 ways to say "I."

Financial analysts forecast fast growth but brutal competition in the industry over the next few years, leaving only a handful of competitors.

Already, has been through a court battle with after accusing its rival of adding elements to its software that blocked users from reaching the site.

A Beijing court ruled against in April, ordering it stop such "unfair competition."

The lawsuit "did much to reinforce Baidu's underdog image," said Wolf. "That turned out to be very positive for them in China. It made people check them out."

Associated Press

More in Tux Machines

today's leftovers

  • Nvidia 358.09 Beta Linux Driver Brings a New Kernel Module
    A new Nvidia Beta driver has been released, and developers have added quite a few OpenGL changes and improvements, among other things. The Nvidia developers have just pushed a new Beta driver out the door and this time it's full of all kinds of OpenGL updates and fixes. It will be a while until all of these changes make their way onto the stable branch of the drivers, but these are pretty important, and it won't take all that long.
  • Survey: Users love their desktops more than their cheapo tablets
    In the same survey last year by ACSI, tablets scored 80 on a 100-point scale, just one point behind desktops at 81. This year, consumers rated tablets at at 75—alongside laptops, which also fell this year, the survey said. The survey criteria require that the respondent purchased a new personal computer in the last years.
  • The 5 states of the modern sysadmin
    I think there’s (at least) 5 states you might find yourself in as a sysadmin in these days: Day to day things that aren’t (yet) automated. Automating and designing for the future. Fires and outages Interruptions Time to dream
  • KWrite on Mac
    It is still ugly, as scaled on my HiDPI display as the plist file is missing and it crashs on everything (aka open dialog) and has no icons.
  • Parsix GNU/Linux 8.0 review
  • Varnish-4.1.0 released, packages for fedora and epel
    Varnish-4.1.0 was recently released, and as usual, I have patched and wrapped up packages for fedora and epel. As 4.1.0 is not api/abi compatible with varnish-4.0, packages for stable releases of epel and fedora are not updated. Varnish-4.1.x will be available in a stable Fedora at latest from f24, though the package recompiles fine on anything from el5 to f23 as well.

Leftovers: Software

  • Top YouTube Video Downloaders that You Need for the Linux Machine
    TV episodes, movie trailers, broadcasts, and interviews are also available on YouTube for viewing. If you find an interesting video on YouTube while browsing on your Linux machine and feel the urge to download it to your desktop, do not despair. This is because you have several options for achieving your goal with little fuss as shown below.
  • Gammu 1.36.6
    Gammu 1.36.6 has been just released. New bugfix release with lot of improvements in the documentation.
  • qBittorrent 3.2.4 Has Been Released
  • Meet the new Opera brand identity
    Today, we’re unveiling our new brand identity. We’re introducing a new look and feel. But, it’s more than just a logo shift. Opera has evolved a lot since we started our journey as a browser company 20 years ago. Today, we serve over a billion internet users every month, between the 350 million people around the world experiencing the internet through our apps and services and the 1.1 billion people we reach through Opera Mediaworks.

today's howtos

Leftovers: Gaming