Google lost a slice of its search share in China to rival Baidu.com last year, as Yahoo also slipped and Bing proved unpopular in the country, according to a local consultancy.
Google accounted for 18.9 percent of Web searches done in China last year, compared to 76 percent for domestic search company Baidu, iResearch said in a research note Monday. Google's share was down 1.8 percentage points from 2008, while Baidu strengthened its dominance with a rise of 2.8 points, iResearch said.
Google's future in China remains unclear after the company last month said it planned to stop censoring results on its China-based search engine, even if that meant being banished from the country. The company has said it is in talks with Chinese authorities, but Google.cn is still censoring results for sensitive search topics such as the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader revered by his people but seen by China as a scheming separatist.
Baidu's lead over Google is strongest in the country's less prosperous inland regions, which are a key driver for China's surging number of Internet users. China said at the end of last year that 384 million people there had used the Internet in the last six months.
Yahoo China, which is controlled by China's Alibaba Group and is also known as China Yahoo, slipped further in the country last year. Its share of Web searches fell to just 0.3 percent from the previous year's 1 percent, iResearch said.
Microsoft's Bing search engine accounted for just 0.4 percent of searches in China last year, the consultancy said, marking a contrast to Bing's fast growth in the U.S. Microsoft has not promoted Bing in China as heavily as it has in the U.S.
Local consultancy Analysys International forecasts that the value of China's search market this year will reach 10 billion yuan (US$1.46 billion).
(IDG, the parent company of IDG News Service, is an investor in Baidu.)