Bytedance challenges Baidu’s monopoly with in-app search engine

By Wei Sheng
2 min read
Bytedance’s Shanghai office. (Image credit: Technode/Shi Jiayi)

TikTok owner ByteDance has introduced an in-app search engine for its popular Jinri Toutiao newsfeed app, a move that challenges Baidu’s monopoly in China’s search market.

Why it matters: The two companies are fast forming a rivalry in online services. Baidu moved into Toutiao’s market when it changed its newsfeed offering and Bytedance has hit back by adding a search engine.

  • Baidu was accused earlier this year of stacking its search results with pages hosted on its Baijiahao service, a Jinri Toutiao-like newsfeed platform, leading to poor quality content rising to the top of searches.
  • For Bytedance, in-app search can serve as a shortcut for it to build a Baidu rival as its apps have already amassed 1.5 billion monthly active users as of July.

Details: The in-app search engine developed offers search results from the company’s popular apps such as Jinri Toutiao, and short video app Douyin and Xigua, as well as general content from around the internet, Chinese tech news outlet 36Kr reported on Thursday.

  • Bytedance’s current search functionality is not a direct rival to Baidu’s offering as it is more like a tool that enhances Toutiao’s in-app navigation, rather than a dedicated search engine.
  • China’s online users are becoming increasingly familiar with in-app search engines as Tencent launched such a service for instant messaging app WeChat, allowing them to search for subscription articles and content from around the web.
  • Bytedance told TechNode in a statement that the search function was in line with the Toutiao’s mission of using “information to create value.”
  • Baidu declined to comment.

Context: Baidu has been trying to keep Bytedance’s search ambitions in check with a series of lawsuits, and Bytedance has responded with more lawsuits.

  • Baidu filed a lawsuit in Beijing on April 26, alleging that Bytedance stole a number of its search results and displayed them in the new search engine function.
  • Bytedance sued Baidu the same day for “stealing” videos from its short video app Douyin.
  • In January, Baidu sued Bytedance, along with professional networking platform Maimai, for RMB 5 million over allegations of defamation and copyright infringement. Two months later, Bytedance vice president Li Liang won a defamation suit against Baidu, after claiming the company posted slanderous material about him on its website and app.