The merger/collaboration/integration announced this week involving Baidu (that included first a merger of two top media and then a collaboration with Baidu) is interesting in many ways. According to China Daily “Qiu Xin, president of the new group, said it will work with Baidu to build the channel into ‘the first choice for searching in Shanghai’”. This is a very modest goal as Baidu already controls more than 60% of he search market it China and it is hardly the most interesting.
Looking beyond Shanghai and into the collaboration itself two things are worth remembering.
- The algorithms and filter used by search engines influence what we find and when, in the long run they influence the way we think as we have learn to think like the search engine in order to find what we want.
- How the search engines use and share the date about users have fundamental impacts on user privacy. Compared with many social media that are being discussed search engines pose much more fundamental questions as they track everything we look for on the web. In almost all cases they do that in order to be able to sell you things, but as resent event have shown it can also be used to track people with certain ideologies.
The fact that we allow commercial entities that work close with government to track our life on the web is hopefully something that will be discussed more in the coming years.
While I have initiative the project “Digital Twins” to look at certain aspects of this challenge, I have yet to find a partner/process that allow me to explore the underlying infrastructure that our whole digital existence depend on.
I was reminded about this gap when the Baidu case was discussed and I felt that it would be great to have Baidu out on the global scene as I think it would highlight things that we tend to forget when we use the “Western” search engines and Google in particular.
My short comment on the event in China that triggered this reflection is available here: