Search giant Google and its domestic competitor Baidu were among the pioneers back in the 2000s, when the Chinese first accessed the internet at internet cafes. To place their search engines prominently on computers, many early web companies made deals with internet cafe operators. Baidu was keen to use this strategy to increase its visibility. Many first-time internet users thus became more acquainted with Baidu than its foreign rival Google. Baidu also employed tactics that Google usually shunned. Apart from traditional offline advertising, Baidu offered access to popular but unlicensed music mp3 files. These tactics successfully boosted its popularity in China. In comparison, Google appeared to be not so aggressive to win the game. Because of the disputes over censorship regulations in 2010, the global search market leader closed its internet services in mainland China. Users are now being redirected to its Hong Kong-based search engine Google.com.hk.
With a better understanding of the Chinese characters, consumer behavior, and advertiser preference, Baidu gradually climbed to the top of the ladder. In recent years, the search engine has been investing heavily in developing artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, such as autonomous driving, voice assistant and smart speaker, bringing a robust revenue growth to the company. Although Baidu still has to improve its search ranking quality, it is quite unlikely for other market players to shake its dominating status.
In 2018, an investigative journalism website reported that Google was building on a new, censored Chinese search engine. After a backlash from its employee, government officials, and human rights advocates, the company suspended the development of "Dragonfly". However, it is still unclear whether the search giant has plans to make a comeback in China.