When you're as big as Baidu
However, one can still debate the logic of the country's leading search engine launching a portal geared specifically for older Web surfers. Trekking out to 123.baidu.com -- instead of the flagship www.baidu.com -- opens a page with oversized fonts, few ads, and links to sites dedicated to things like tai-chi, revolutionary-song downloads, and calligraphy, all common interests for older people in China.
According to IDG News Service, older Internet users are still rare in the world's most populous nation. Less than 6% of China's Internet users are over 50, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.
That should be obvious. When investors think of Web usage in the country, they typically turn to online role-playing game specialists like NetEase.com
However, there are several good reasons for Baidu to launch 123.baidu.com and populate it partly with links to classical Chinese poetry and bird-raising sites.
- Baidu already commands nearly two-thirds of the country's traditional search engine market, so it would be shortsighted to overlook a group that will naturally increase over time.
- It has already launched dedicated portals for niche audiences like children and blind Web surfers.
- It may as well cash in before Google
(NASDAQ:GOOG)or the country's lesser sites corner the senior market.
- Baidu has been battling some negative press since November, so it doesn't hurt to appeal to older Web users before they turn into critics.
Is there really any downside here? Unless younger audiences flock to the site for an experience that isn't as ad-centric -- and that, quite frankly, is highly unlikely -- the "elderly search" initiative is a great move.
There is certainly room for fringe players. Even in the U.S., top dog Google has to battle not only conventional portals like Yahoo!
Baidu wants to be everything to everyone in China. It's a lofty goal. Even if it's ultimately unattainable, you can't blame it for trying.
Other headlines to rock out to:
Stock news, financial commentary, and your daily dose of Foolishness: Get plugged in to The Motley Fool on Twitter!
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. The Fool has a disclosure policy.