Web giants you didn't know about

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 9:46 PM | 2 comments »

Google, Yahoo and MSN may be the global Internet leaders. However, these leaders face tough competition from local favourites in several countries.

Baidu is known as a Google trouncer in China, Yahoo has just been dethroned by Wretch in Taiwan. The social networking site SkyRock leads in Belgium. Similarly there are several other local and several small international players which have emerged as top online destinations in several countries giving global Internet poster boys a run for their money.

Meet the Web giants you didn't know about.

Popularly known as Google trouncer in China, Baidu is the No. 1 serach engine in China and was the third-largest worldwide search property with 3.4 billion searches in December 2007, capturing 5.2 per cent of worldwide search share and beating Microsoft Sites for third place, according to comScore.

In China, Baidu.com leads the search engine market with as much as 61 per cent marketshare, Google comes a distant second with a 25 per cent share, followed by Yahoo China with 9.6 per cent.

In December 2007, Baidu became the first company from China to be included in the NASDAQ-100 index. The site's name Baidu has been inspired by a Song Dynasty poem written by Xin Qiji in the 12th century.

One of the most popular features on Baidu is its music search, called "MP3 Search," which includes Baidu 500 a comprehensive listing of popular Chinese music. Baidu started its own search engine in Japan known as www.baidu.jp. The company recently announced public tests of its new voice-activated search.

If it's Baidu in China, it's Mixi in Japan. The site has developed into a top social outlet for Japanese young people since its creation in 2004.

A Japanese version of MySpace was also launched in 2006 in a joint venture with Internet conglomerate Softbank Corp aimed at winning over some of Mixi's business in the Internet-savvy country. However, Mixi has continued to grow. It says it currently has 13.3 million members, up from 8.01 million a year ago.

Mixi's share price nearly doubled within a day of being listed in September 2006. Japan's popular online social networking site recently announced its plans to expand into China.

The Tokyo-based company was founded in 1997 as an operator of a job search service, started Mixi.jp in 2004 and listed its shares in 2006.

A Portuguese-language Internet portal, Universo Online (UOL) is a leader in Latin America. The biggest portal in the Portuguese and Spanish speaking countries, UOL has grown as rapidly in the last few years thanks to increasing broadband penetration in Brazil.

UOL started operations in 1996 as a joint venture with Grupo Abril and Grupo Folha. It provides local Internet access in more than 3,000 cities throughout Brazil and 14,000 cities abroad. The company has operations in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico and the United States.

UOL has more than 800 million page views per month, 6.4 million unique visitors, 650 thousand paying subscribers, 850 thousand free access subscribers and 3 million free mail users.

In November, 2005, UOL started an Internet social network service called UOLKut. It was later renamed to UOL K.

Launched in December 2002 by a French radio station, Skyrock was the largest social network in France, according to comScore World Metrix report in 2007. In fact, the radio broadcaster today earns more than 50 per cent of its revenues through online platform, thanks to SkyRock.

The online social network with over 22 million members is the no. 1 site in Belgium, No. 2 in France and among the top 5 sites in Quebec, Switzerland and Morocco. The site is the world's 17th largest site globally in page views, has more than 20.2 million monthly unique visitors, and counts a whopping 1.8 billion comments, 22.5 million videos and 400 million pictures.

The first French-speaking social network, the site's popularity has been attributed to its focus on the French language. Skyblog, the SkyRock's blogging platform is one of the most popular blogging sites in Europe. The service evolved into a social network since the beginning of 2007, adding friends and personal profiles.

The website is available in French, English, German, Dutch and Spanish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish, Danish and Finnish languages.

US-based Friendster is the single largest social network in Asia. Its top five countries are the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, the United States (legacy members who never left, plus new growth among Asians here), and Singapore.

Friendster has kept its growth going by launching fan profile pages for Asian pop singers, launching four new languages since September 2007 (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish), and letting developers create apps for its site.

With more than 60 million members worldwide, Friendster connects friends, family, school, groups, activities and interests.

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, Friendster is backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures and individual investors. In 2003, Google offered $30 million to buy Friendster, however the offer was turned down.

Vkontakte is the most popular social networking site in Russia. As of February 2008, the social network had approximately eight million users.

In fact, since 2007 major companies have been sending job offers to prospective candidates through vkontakte.ru.

The most of site visitors are university and high school students. Unlike odnoklassniki.ru, another popular social network in Russia, VKontakte popularity is across Russia and not limited to Moscow.

The site offers personalised pages, news, photo and videohosting, notes, messaging system and groups where users can participate.

Xanga is one of the world's biggest blogging platforms. The New York-based company launched in 1999 with a service that allowed users to share book and movie reviews has evolved into the Hong Kong's most popular blogging and social networking platform. The site is also popular in Singapore, Macao and UK. However, the site has lost large marketshare in US, where it used to be in the top 10 till 2006.

As of March 29, 2007, Xanga stood as the 60th most visited site, according to Alexa Internet ratings. Xanga has more than 40 million users. Popularly known as Xangans, these users write blogs, share photos and videos and meet new friends on the site.

Presently, Xanga is available in Chinese, Spanish, Indonesian, Japanese and Korean languages. Last year, Xanga introduced "Pulse".

A mini-blog it lets users post messages of up to 140 characters. The company claims that it is designed to make blog posting less daunting as well as cellphone-friendly. Users can send updates, musings and life commentary via a text message and have it appear on Pulse.

Taiwan's Wretch recently dethroned Yahoo in the country's top-100 list tabulated by Business Next, a local magazine, and Taiwan's Access Rating Online (ARO).

Wretch has been the top site by hits and unique visitors in Taiwan since its $146 million all-stock purchase of Kimo.com in December of 2000, the most popular portal on the island at the time.

Despite Yahoo's best attempts to keep up with new features such as blogs, Wretch continued to grow and gain popularity. It proved such a difficult battle that Yahoo Taiwan finally used cash to end the battle, buying Wretch.cc for an undisclosed sum.

Yahoo Taiwan came in second in the ranking overall. Google though ranked first among search engines, ranked 14th overall.

Founded in December 2000 by Tomi Lintel, IRC-Galleria is the largest social networking service in Finland with more than 4,70000 registered members.

In April 2007, IRC-galleria was acquired by Sulake Corporation, the company behind Habbo, one of the world's largest virtual worlds for teenagers.

IRC-Galleria allows users to post and share their photos and music as well as join different communities. Though the basic usage of IRC-Galleria is free, users also have an option to purchase additional services and enhancements. The service can also be used with a mobile phone.

Based in Boca Raton, Florida, Multiply is one of the most popular social networking site in Philippines. The networking platform allows users to share digital media content including photos, blogs, videos and music.

With more than eight million registered users as of January 2008, Multiply keeps track of your social network and automatically alerts user's friends when they update a new photo album or video.

The Multiply Inbox also lets users know when someone in their network is sharing something new and when new comments have been added to posts in their network.

Metroflog is the Mexico's no. 1 site with almost 50 per cent marketshare. The site also has a good user base in Argentina, Chile, Venezuela and Uruguay.

The site offer users a personal space for sharing photos with customised links like personal description, favorite links, background colors and texture to profiles.

Maktoob is the largest Arab online community. Based in Amman, Jordan, it is known for being the first Arabic/English email service provider. “Maktoob” in Arabic means “letter”, “written”, or “Destiny”.

Founded in 1998 by Samih Toukan and Hussam Khoury, the service support users who do not have Arabic Keyboards or browsers and help them send and receive emails by using a virtual keyboard. Over the years, Maktoob has acquired many sites in the region.

In June 2005, UAE-based private equity house Abraaj Capital purchased 40 per cent of the company shares in $5.2 million buyout deal. Maktoob recently teamed up with world-renowned Dale Carnegie Training.


  1. Anonymous // April 3, 2008 at 5:16 PM  

    That is great piece of research work.

    Well Done, Nice post :)

  2. Anonymous // April 16, 2008 at 9:24 PM  

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