The world’s most valuable startup ByteDance has started to recruit talent to build from scratch a general search engine for all internet users, the company announced via WeChat on Wednesday.
The move indicates that ByteDance will officially launch a competition against Baidu, the current largest search engine in China, as it aims to offer to its users “a more ideal” search experience.
The brand-new search engine will be built by the same team that underpins searching functions inside a slew of ByteDance’s apps, including Jinri Toutiao’s news feed app, and the short video apps Douyin and TikTok.
“One day in the future, when a new search engine appears on each individual’s phone, you will be the creator of it,” ByteDance said to its prospective employees.
When contacted by KrAsia on Thursday, ByteDance said the general search function has been launched within the Toutiao app, allowing its users to view search results beyond contents inside the app. KrAsia tried the key word “spring” and found that search results are similar to search results from Baidu and Sogou, the second largest search engine in China.
Google has been out of service in the Chinese mainland since 2010, and its recent efforts to return to the region failed due to internal and external protests.
Baidu has been facing extensive criticism for various moves such as hosting false hospital information. The company has declined to comment when contacted by KrAsia on Thursday.
Sogou, which supports searching functions inside WeChat, also declined to comment.
Baidu and Sogou each booked the first-ever loss in the first quarter of this year since they went public in 2005 and 2017 in the United States respectively.
Baidu disclosed a net loss of RMB 327 million (USD 49 million) in the first quarter, compared to a net income of RMB 6.7 billion in the first quarter of 2018.
Sogou made a net loss of USD 3.9 million in the first quarter, compared to net income of USD15.3 million in the corresponding period in 2018.