<IT WORLD> Social here, censor there
By Martin Young
HUA HIN, Thailand - Tech companies have been teaming up this week to
consolidate their offensives to slay the Goliath of the Internet, Google. A new
partnership between Facebook and Microsoft's recently acquired Skype will
result in video conferencing technology being embedded into the pages of the
world's largest social network.
Facebook, which now claims over 750 million users, began talks with Skype last
year regarding video chat capabilities for its
members, and Skype updated its services to include voice calling for Facebook
This week's announcement cemented a partnership that aims to rival Google's own
video chat service and recently announced social network (see
Google networks - again, Asia Times Online, July 2, 2011) as well as
Apple's Facetime conferencing feature.
As Google consumes more of the Internet with new offerings and services,
companies such as Microsoft are trying to claw back lost market share, and
partnering the world's most popular website, in which it secured a 1.6% stake
for US$240 million in 2007, is one way.
Facebook's domination of the online social scene is threatened by Google's
introduction last week of Google+. The two companies seem to be mimicking one
another in terms of functionality, with "groups" versus "circles" of friends,
or "like" buttons versus "+1" buttons to vote for content that is being shared.
Both platforms essentially do the same thing, so it will be a case of
innovation in the coming months to see who gains the edge in the social sharing
Google has requested that businesses stay out of its social network for the
time being while the company further develops the system. "Right now we're very
much focused on optimizing for the consumer experience, but we have a great
team of engineers building a similarly optimized business experience for
Google+," the company said.
A business version with additional functionality is being built and the company
will invite a small group of businesses to a Google+ pilot test to see how
users interact with commercial brands. As Facebook has experienced, this would
make an impressive advertising platform, and Google, the king of online
advertising, will no doubt be taking advantage of the millions of users who
flock to the network to set up profiles and upload their personal preferences
Eighteen months after Google decided to pull the plug on its Chinese search
business, rival Microsoft has struck a deal with Baidu, the largest search
engine in China. The US company's Bing search engine will provide
English-language results on Baidu's pages, which cover 80% of the market in
Baidu claims to have over 10 million search requests per day in English, and
Microsoft has agreed to provide a censored version of them to China's 480
million strong Internet-using population. Google's reluctance to comply with
Beijing's draconian censorship policies resulted in it redirecting Google.cn to
its Hong Kong servers for unfettered results and removing operations from the
Microsoft has not taken the moral high ground and has stated that it "respects
and follows laws and regulations in every country where we run business. We
operate in China in a manner that both respects local authority and culture and
makes clear that we have differences of opinion with official content
Google declined to comment, although the company does state that search is not
its biggest business in China and it has been focusing more on selling display
ads to Chinese companies for viewing outside of the country. Chinese companies
spent US$1.7 billion on display advertising last year.
Google's Android mobile operating system continues to gain US market share from
rivals Apple, with a three-month average of data for March to May giving it a
38.1% share, up from 33% during the previous three months, according to market
Apple has also made gains and now has a 26.6% share, up 1.4% at the expense of
BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, whose platform lost 4.2% and ended up
below Apple with a market share of 24.7% in the US. Microsoft's Windows mobile
platform lost almost two percentage points for a 5.8% share.
Further Apple gains are expected when the company releases the iPhone 5 in the
third quarter. Tech websites are reporting that the company has ordered 15
million units for a September launch, though this has yet to be confirmed.
The smart-phone handset race is still dominated by Samsung, with an unchanged
24.8% market share. LG held onto second place with a slight gain to 21.1%,
while Motorola lost a point and slid to 15.1%. Apple again nudged RIM down a
spot with a climb to 8.7% from 7.5%. BlackBerry lost 0.5% and ended up with a
8.1% market share.
The US is one of the hottest smart-phone markets, with one in three people now
owning one. A Samsung device running Android is the most popular choice.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.
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