Google is losing ground to its main Chinese rival, Baidu.com.
The US search engine is not attracting as many college students and other young people as Baidu.com, according to a survey compiled by China's official Internet statistics cruncher.
Over the past six months, Baidu.com's share of the Internet search market in three key cities - Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou - has risen by over 10 per cent, while Google's has stood still despite the growing number of Internet users in China, the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) said Monday.
Chinese youth resist Google charms
Over half of the Web users surveyed in Beijing, 51.5 per cent, preferred to search the Internet using Baidu, while Google took second place with a 32.9 per cent share of the market and Yahoo came in fifth with only 3.7 per cent.
In Shanghai, the race was closer, with Baidu at 43.9 per cent and Google second at 38.2 per cent, while in Guangzhou, Baidu led Google 48 per cent to 28.7 per cent, CNNIC said. The survey was conducted in August.
Among young people in the three Chinese cities, nearly two-thirds of the under-25 crowd use Baidu, compared to 23.7 per cent for Google. College students prefer Baidu by over two to one to Google, according to the CNNIC statistics, or 58.9 per cent to 27.7 per cent.
The figures could prompt Google to revise its China strategy. China's Internet scene is in the ascendant, with Yahoo earlier this month agreeing to pay $1 billion and transfer all of its Chinese businesses to China's Alibaba.com Corp. for a 40 per cent stake in the company.
Baidu, a company in which Google owns a 2.6 per cent stake, also raised over $100 million in its recent public stock offering in the US.
Companies and analysts see a lot of potential in China's Internet market. The country only ranks behind the US in terms of total Internet users, with 103 million, according to CNNIC. While that amounts to about half the number of users in the US, it accounts for only 8 per cent of China's population, compared to nearly 69 per cent for the U.S.