Google still is China’s second-most-popular search service based on use of the Hong Kong site and others abroad. It leads rivals such as Sogou, Tencent Soso and Zhongsou, which have market shares at or below 1 percent.
But the lack of a local presence will hurt as competition for new users spreads to mobile phones and the countryside, where users speak little English and will want a Chinese search engine, Yu said.
“Baidu is in a very good position to grab more market share,” he said.
In a new blow to its public visibility, a leading a Chinese portal, Sina.com, said this week it would no longer use Google. The search giant has ended a series of such partnerships as it stopped providing censored results.
New competitors including state media also are jumping into the market with search and social media products. The government’s Xinhua News Agency launched a search engine last year in a partnership with state-owned China Mobile Ltd., the world’s biggest phone carrier by subscribers.
Google faces another challenge from new regulations that tighten control over online map services. On Thursday, the deadline to apply for licenses, Google said it was “in discussions with the government about how we could offer a maps product in China.”
“New officials will be in place,” he said, “so things could change at that time.”