Photo: Robert Scoble via Flickr
This guest post originally appeared on the author’s blog, and is reprinted with permission. Sina News reported on Friday afternoon that unnamed Baidu executives have flown to Silicon Valley to discuss possible cooperation with Facebook–消息称百度高管赴美国硅谷与Facebook洽谈合作.
Baidu PR refused to comment.
There has been much speculation that Baidu is one of the more likely China partners for Facebook (China Mobile is another one). Baidu is already way behind in social media in China and so may really want a Facebook deal. I have a beta account for Baidu Talk 百度说吧, Baidu’s version of Weibo (though Baidu calls it a real-name social networking platform, not a microblog). It is still in invitation-only beta and appears to be falling further behind Sina Weibo as each day passes. In some ways Baidu is a bit like Google in that they have proven to be weak at anything social.
What might a Baidu-Facebook partnership look like? I have no insider knowledge, but that won’t stop me from speculating. It would probably take the form of a joint venture for China to launch a China-specific, sanitised version of Facebook that would have limited if any linkages and data sharing with the global, ex-China Facebook.
Facebook wants to get to a billion users, and a China deal would accelerate their achievement of that goal. But after the uprisings in the Middle East the government may not approve a Baidu-Facebook deal (see my post on Sinocism-Will Unrest In Egypt Strengthen The Chinese Government?), and if it did it would likely require all sorts of “compromises” from Facebook.
Even a PR executive as talented as Elliot Schrage might have a hard time handling the likely uproar in the West around a Facebook China deal and all it would entail.
Meanwhile, Facebook is smartly moving to tap into China advertisers whether or not they have a China venture by setting up a sales office in Hong Kong.
- Sinica Podcast: Beijing’s Ambivalent Relationship with the Internet and Zhang Wuben’s Mung Beans
- Has Facebook Hired Several Google China Engineers?
- RenRen Setting the Standard for China’s Social Networks
- Baidu Launches English Blog-Baidu Beat
- Can China Successfully Build Soft Power Without A Global Internet Strategy?