Baidu's New Search Page Links to Apps, Social Networks

China's largest search engine Baidu has launched a new homepage, that moves away from the traditional lone search bar, to offering a customizable landing site where users can connect to their favorite online apps, and see recent posts made on social networking platforms.

The Chinese company launched Thursday the new homepage, which activates when the user logs into his Baidu account. Along with a search bar, the new home page displays a list of the user's preferred websites and apps, all of which can be customized.

Users can also display the latest posts from social networking websites by synching their accounts with Baidu. The company plans to allow the homepage to connect with other sites, including Renren, a popular Facebook-like site, and Sina Weibo, one of China's largest Twitter-like services.

The new homepage layout marks the latest attempt by Baidu to reduce the time and effort users spend to look for information on the Internet. Users previously did an Internet search to find out what they wanted, Baidu's CEO Robin Li said on Friday at a company event. With the new homepage, users will possibly find the information they want already posted on it, he added.

While the new homepage could reduce the number of searches made on Baidu, it will give greater exposure to the 20,000 online third-party apps hosted by Baidu, Li said. The new homepage will eventually recommend to users some sites and apps they may like to try, he added.

For years, Baidu has operated with a simple homepage that resembled Google's. It has long dominated China's search engine market and currently attracts about 80 percent of the country's Internet searches, according to CNZZ.com, an analytical Web research site. Google is a distant second with 8 percent of China's Internet searches.

Baidu's CEO has previously sought to enhance Internet search via his "box computing" concept. By this concept, Baidu's search bar will not only provide query results, but can also execute commands like launching an Internet application or linking the user directly with an online service. This led Baidu to begin signing up partners last year to offer third-party apps including games and e-books through the site.

The company also launched on Friday a suite of tools for developers to create mobile apps that are integrated with existing Baidu products, like its music and mapping services. The tools are Android-based, said company spokesman Kaiser Kuo.

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