Robin Li, the chairman and chief executive of Chinese search provider Baidu, claimed that the company serves more search requests than any search engine anywhere -- including Google.
Li also acknowledged the "gift" that Google had given it when Google pulled out of the country this past spring. But, Li added, he does not have any immediate plans to push Baidu into the U.S. market.
"I would have given him advice to spend six months a year in China. He did not take my advice…and he handed me a gift," Li said, at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. Li's comments were made in response to a question about Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, who earlier showed off a phone running Google's "Gingerbread" Android operating system and an NFC chip.
Although a Chinese search engine, Baidu also has a presence on the NASDAQ market in the United States, where the company's share price has climbed from about $40 at the beginning of the year to over $100. Yahoo also holds a stake in Baidu, which has climbed to be worth more than the U.S. company itself. "When I founded the company several years ago, I never knew search could be so profitable," Li said.
Li also claimed that he served more search queries than any other search egine of the world, with, by his own estimates, 99 percent market share of the 420 million Chinese Internet users, including the mobile-phone market.
"I think China is a very difficult market for cell phones," Li said. "First, China is a large and growing market . Market conditions change every day. If you're not close to that market, it's very difficult to keep up with market demands," Li said.
Baidu has also been bolstered by the willingness of Chinese engineers to visit the U.S. and then return to China, there to either start their own company or join an established startup, he said.
What could Baidu learn from U.S. companies? How to do social better. Li said that the Baidu had added some social elements to Baidu, and it had made its search stickier. "But we don't have a full-blown social graph yet," Li said. "I think the purpose of our product is to make search easier. If any feature can do that I'd be happy to add that."
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