Days after it was reportedly attacked by Iranian hackers and the company's chief technology officer quit, Chinese search engine Baidu.com has tried to change its wayward momentum with a newly inked joint venture with a Japanese e-commerce website.

Baidu Inc. today announced an agreement to jointly invest USD50 million over three years in a joint venture with Japan's Rakuten Inc. to build a B2B2C online shopping mall for Chinese Internet users. According to the agreement, Rakuten will own 51% and Baidu will own 49% of the new joint venture.

B2B2C refers to an online marketplace that links and provides value-added services to both business to business and business to consumer. The online mall will provide customers with high-quality merchandise from well-known Chinese and foreign brands as well as small and medium sized enterprises at competitive prices. Expected to go live in the second half of 2010, the mall is anticipated to be the largest online B2B2C shopping mall in China.

Last week, Baidu announced that its chief technology officer, Li Yinan, left the company for personal reasons.

Li's departure comes a week after the search engine was reportedly hacked. At 07:00 on January 12, 2010, Baidu.com experienced a massive failure and users in many cities and provinces in China said they were unable to visit the website. The search engine provider published an official announcement, stating that the reason for users' failure to access Baidu.com was attributed to illegal domain name tampering by its domain name registrar in the United States. However, other media reported that Baidu.com may have been attacked by Iranian hackers because some users saw a banner for the "Iranian Cyber Army" when they tried to access Baidu's homepage. Baidu subsequently announced that it would sue Register.com, its registrar in the United States, for damages.

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