China's leading search engine wants to be your guide in cyberspace.

Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) introduced a web browser this week, hoping to cash in on enabling online experiences and keeping users close to its flagship search engine.

This is an understandably competitive niche, and Baidu will be butting heads with Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Chrome. There are also a few homegrown challengers being distributed by Tencent, Sohu.com (Nasdaq: SOHU), and Qihoo 360 (NYSE: QIHU), so it's not as if Baidu can gobble up market share against largely foreign competition.

This was Microsoft's niche to lose. Chinese Internet tracker CNZZ.com pegged Internet Explorer's market share at a whopping 83% earlier this year, but that has been whittled down to 63%. Qihoo 360 is the distant silver medalist, with 19% of the market.

Clearly, Microsoft's dominance is vulnerable right now, given the platform's sudden slide.

Baidu is friendly with Microsoft. The two companies are working together to deliver English-language query results on Baidu. However, Baidu can't let smaller search engines drum up ways to direct surfing sessions.

Having a popular browser isn't synonymous with excelling in search. This is evident closer to home, where Google has a huge market share lead over Bing in search, despite Microsoft's larger audience for Internet Explorer over Google's Chrome.

It's hard not to like this move, though, especially since Baidu's willing to share the potential glory. The Wall Street Journal's China Realtime Report blog points out how the beta version of the browser has no problem directing users to Youku.com (NYSE: YOKU) for video streams and Sina's (Nasdaq: SINA) Weibo for micro-blogging.

Baidu is coming on strong, introducing the browser along with the availability of 30,000 free apps. It apparently isn't assuming that its popular brand alone will be enough to make a dent in this market.

Well played, Baidu.

What do you think about Baidu's push into browsers? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Sina, Microsoft, Baidu, Sohu.com, and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has only been to China once, but he relishes admiring its dot-com revolution from afar. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.