The Chinese company that has given hundreds of millions of people their 15 seconds of fame on video app TikTok is now planning to gift the internet a new product: a search engine aimed at the China market.
In an announcement Wednesday, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, said it is recruiting people to develop the search engine, without giving a timeline or specific details. The Beijing-based company said simply that it is designing the new search engine “for a more ideal user experience.”
"There’s nothing you won’t be able to find — only things you won’t want to search for,” the announcement said.
ByteDance’s new venture will be seen as a challenge to China’s most ubiquitous search engine, Baidu, which has faced repeated criticism over its search algorithm. Baidu has also sparked outrage for allegedly promoting misinformation involving visa agencies and health treatments, among other products and services.
The two companies recently made headlines because of an ongoing legal feud. In April, Baidu filed a lawsuit against ByteDance over claims that the latter’s content aggregator, Jinri Toutiao, had stolen artificial intelligence technology and search results from TOP 1, a similar product Baidu developed in 2017. The same day, ByteDance also sued Baidu, accusing the tech giant of stealing content from TikTok without authorization.
When contacted by Sixth Tone on Friday, Baidu declined to comment on its rival’s new venture. On Thursday, a ByteDance representative told Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper, that it is currently testing a pilot version of its search engine that has been incorporated into the Jinri Toutiao interface and allows users to view search results that go beyond in-app content.
Founded in 2012, ByteDance has enjoyed staggering success in recent years and was valued at $75 billion last September. Globally, over 700 million people use ByteDance apps on a daily basis, with TikTok users accounting for roughly half of this figure. On Monday, ByteDance also announced that it is developing its first smartphone in cooperation with the Chinese consumer electronics company Smartisan.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: IC)