August 20, 2007 |
For those wonder when, oh when, Google is going to get serious about social networking, the wait is over. Maybe. Well, we’re not quite sure just yet.
Most of us know something about the network Big G’s been maintaining these past few years, called Orkut. Popular in some parts of the southwestern hemisphere, it’s been a piece of Google not very much spoken for by Mountain View.
Now, however, Google is showing signs that it’s paying closer attention to the social Web beyond just email and IM. Only, it’s not doing so in the US. Or in Europe. The South American continent, where Orkut subsides, isn’t on the agenda, either. No, it’s looking at China.
That’s right. The company has revealed its interest in expanding its presence in the PRC, where it will attempt to wean market share from Baidu, by far the largest Web entity on the mainland. Baidu current commands 58.1 percent of the search market alone. Google follows with 22.8%, nearly double Yahoo! China’s 11.6% share.
How does Google intend to gain ground in the fast-growing Internet market in China? Well, it doesn’t plan on entering the country’s social sector from a small, solitary seed. Instead, Google “acquired a stake in Chinese community website Tianya”, as revealed to the press earlier today, in order that it not make a blind foray into a still very young market in the PRC as well as to tap an already established user base that otherwise might have proven difficult to attract and retain.
How serious exactly is Google about investing in Tianya? As of right now, we don’t know. Some in the media are reporting that the company’s stake is limited at 10%, which would more or less place the deal in the realm of the experimental. Others think the share of investment is much higher, putting speculative figures as high as 60%.
Ten to sixty percent. Quite ambiguous parameters, no?
Because it’s simply too early to tell, we’re better off leaving this development as a rough cut, and make better sense of it as more detailed information arrives. The basic premise is clear: Google wants to get as far into China as possible while it is still able.
We understand that Google “missed the boat” in terms of making its presence know in the American and European social networking markets, and it now has only to purchase one or more well-established entities in these regions of the world, which it can ponder doing without time constraints or anything of that sort.
China’s still somewhat fresh in this particular area on the Web, however, so the company’s decided to make a go of it. Better sooner than later, I say, considering it’s got a major force in Baidu to contend with.