After Chinese online auction website Taobao.com last week announced plans to block the search engine of Baidu.com (BIDU), social networking services websites, including Blog.sohu.com, 51.com, Xiaonei.com and Hainei.com, also have admitted to blocking Baidu, the top search engine in China.
According to a manager of an SNS website quoted by ChinaByte.com, many popular SNS websites are blocking or will block parts of search engines, because SNS are based on a real-name system and they don't want the automated bots from the search engines to index their information. If the information of users can be extracted by search engines, it will be serious invasion of the users' privacy, which suddenly appears to be an issue in China. Although some websites that have records of users' private details set code to prevent the entry of search engines, a few search engine companies will not observe those standards, so SNS websites have to block these search engines to protect the privacy of their users.
For example, search engines are requested to observe the robots.txt rule, which is a file hosted on a website that is made freely available to automated search engine agents and tells those search engines what should be searched, and what should not be searched, on a website. The Chinese search engines might be ignoring these robots.txt files because many websites themselves appear to have callous disregard for their users' data and a lack of technological understanding on what the robots.txt should contain. The Xiaonei.com robots.txt file currently only disallows Baidu's spidering of its pages, but other Chinese websites fail to provide enough guidance to search engines.
Foreign SNS website Facebook has created a successful model in refusing most search engine queries. It is almost a blank on the first page of Facebook. Every visitor should log in to see the contents and it is almost impossible for search engines to access these contents, though they are allowed to index a small portion of the site.
Some managers of Chinese SNS websites say they have set up an informal alliance to resist undesirable searches and may even replace current search engines.