Yahoo China Relaunched With Pure Search Focus & New Majority Owner

Yahoo China has been acquired by and relaunched as a pure search service. Here's the rundown on the changes and some reasons behind the handout, which still leaves Yahoo itself earning off the site.

Back in August, Yahoo invested $1 billion in Alibaba. That gave Yahoo a 40 percent stake in the company.

At the end of October, there was a UPI report that Alibaba bought up all the assets of Yahoo China for $1 billion. But I think that was reported backwards and working off the August announcement.

If you look at the release of the August deal, it talks of Yahoo "contributing" Yahoo China to Alibaba. So I think UPI had it wrong. This other report covers how the deal was concluded at the end of October.

Skipping ahead, via Shak's China White blog, Yahoo! China has 8 months to better Baidu or it's 'game over,' says Alibaba CEO covers the relaunch, as does Yahoo China back to search engine market found via Threadwatch.

The first article covers Alibaba feeling they've got about a year to have a chance in search in China and how the more pure search site will also focus on financial news, entertainment and sports. And political news?

I don't want to get into trouble with the government, so I don't do any political news," said Ma. China requires special certification to publish political news.

It's not all abandoning portal features, however. Email is also being kept, as that's seen as a key portal feature that can't go away.

Yahoo's Jeremy Zawodny who is in Taiwan, heard about the move from his cab driver and was surprised to see that Yahoo China has gained an MP3 search tab.

No surprise, really. China's most popular search engine, Baidu, has built its popularity on music search -- or some would say illegal downloads -- as I covered in my Google's China Situation Better Than You Might Think -- And Other China Search News post. The question really is, will the new Yahoo China feature music content but not get into the same trouble Baidu's had with music companies.

I took a fast look to see if I could find any pirated songs, but needing to log into a Yahoo China account lost me, I'm afraid. If you have to log in, I'm guessing pirated music is less likely.

Finally, doesn't it seem odd for Yahoo to be handing over Yahoo China to another company when just this week, it bought out control of Yahoo UK, Germany, France and Korea from Softbank?

Nah. I'm guessing it's a handy way for Yahoo to profit off of China but get free of all those pesky complaints that Yahoo bends to China's will on political issues. Hey, we didn't hand that email over to the Chinese government. We didn't censor those news results. We didn't filter those search results. Alibaba did -- take it up with them! Yet by owning a stake in Alibaba, Yahoo can earn money of the search business.

As a reminder, Google owns a stake in four percent stake of Baidu. That gives it a bit of a hedge in case Google China doesn't work or the entire Yahoo keeping your distance situation -- if I'm reading that situation right -- looks worthwhile to follow.

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Danny Sullivan was the founder and editor of Search Engine Watch from June 1997 until November 2006.

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