Baidu.com has launched a Japanese search engine, part of the company's plan to expand beyond its home market in China.
The new search engine, Baidu.jp, shares the same clean look as the company's flagship site, but offers significantly fewer services. At present, only Internet search and image search functions are offered, with the latter labeled as a beta service and presumably still undergoing development.
Other Baidu services, such as Baidu Spaces, the company's blogging service, and Baidu News are not available on the Japanese site. The site also does not offer a mapping service, which is popular with Japanese users, or a mobile search function, a service that is quickly growing in popularity in Japan.
In February, Baidu announced plans to spend $15 million this year to build a Japanese search engine. During a conference call with investors, Baidu Chairman and CEO Robin Li said the company's expertise in Chinese-language search would be an advantage in its attempt to enter the Japanese market.
Whether or not that expertise actually helps Baidu remains to be seen. While Japanese uses many characters borrowed and adapted from Chinese, the language also relies on two sets of phonetic symbols not used in China.
Besides grappling with Japanese-language search, Baidu will also have to face off against established search engines, such as Yahoo Japan, which dominates the search market in Japan. Yahoo Japan's reach extends to around 86 percent of all Internet users in Japan making it the country's top Web property, according to NetRatings Japan.
(Martyn Williams, in Tokyo, contributed to this story.)