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Baidu taking social strides, with or without Facebook’s help

baidu twitterThere’s been a lot of speculation lately regarding Facebook’s possible involvement with Chinese Internet giant Baidu. Word has it that the site will work with Baidu to create a new social network in place of an actual Chinese extension of Facebook. Which is why it seems odd that Baidu is taking steps to break into social on its own.

A new report from Digicha says that the Chinese press is abuzz with news that Baidu will be relaunching Baidu Talk as Baidu Weibo. Baidu Talk has been in a private beta for some time now and was the search titan’s answer to Twitter. If you’re thinking that China already had one of those, you’d be right. The similarly named Sina Weibo has been dominating the country’s microblogging landscape, even winning loyal users globally. But Baidu cannot be deterred, and will launch its own Twitter-like service that will come with extended social elements as well. To further distance it from the simplicity of Sina Weibo, it will require users to register with their legal identities, which Baidu Weibo will verify.

From the sounds of it, we have a Chinese version of the Google versus Facebook tussle on our hands. Baidu is Google in this case, and (despite being far more similar to Twitter, for our comparison purposes) Sina Weibo is Facebook. Baidu desperately wants to come up with a competitor service, but has yet to seriously break into social the way many of these other sites have. In a strikingly similar situation, Baidu has even introduced integration with popular social sites Tencent, Sohu, and Netease — and “Sina Weibo has so far declined to participant.”

It’s possible the deal between Facebook and Baidu was nothing more than weak discussions and bolstered by rumors, and now Baidu is determined to fend for itself in the social arena. If so, Baidu would be well to pursue that collaboration; Chinese analysts say that Baidu doesn’t have a strong chance to catch up, much less best, its competitors in this market.

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