Microsoft, China’s Alibaba test new search service

Microsoft Corp. and Alibaba Group, China’s biggest e-commerce site, are testing a search service, adding a new competitor to a crowded Chinese search market.

The launch of the beta, or test, version of the Etao search site last weekend comes as companies scramble for market share following Google Inc.’s decision to close its China search site March 22.

“It is currently in public beta testing,” said John Spelich, Alibaba’s vice president for international corporate affairs. He declined to give any other details. A spokeswoman for Microsoft in China did not immediately respond to phone messages.

The new site combines Alibaba’s e-commerce search engine and a Chinese-language version of Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Bing has struggled to gain a foothold in China’s intensely competitive market.

Alibaba also operates the China arm of Yahoo Inc.’s search engine and has its own search engines on its e-commerce sites and Yahoo owns approximately 40 percent of Alibaba.

China’s dominant search engine is operated by Baidu Inc., which had a 70 percent market share in the second quarter of the year, according to Analysys International, a research firm in Beijing. Google’s market share slipped to 24.2 percent from 30.9 percent in the previous quarter following the closure of its China search engine.

In August, the state-run Xinhua News Agency announced it would launch a search service with state-owned China Mobile Ltd., the world’s biggest phone carrier by subscribers.

Associated Press