Chinese third-party mobile browser developer UCWeb has announced the release of its SM.cn mobile search engine, developed in partnership with Chinese e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba Group. UCWeb CTO Liang Jie will serve as president of the new business.
According to UCWeb CEO Yu Yongfu, the SM.cn team has integrated Alibaba's Yisou online search team, and poached a number of employees from Microsoft, Google, Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU), and Qihoo 360 (NYSE: QIHU). UCWeb and Alibaba formed a "Shenma Yidong" ("SM Mobile") joint venture in July 2013, with UCWeb holding a 70% stake and Alibaba taking a 30% stake in the company.
The SM.cn mobile site currently offers a number of mobile search features including app search, shopping search, reading search, and other vertical search features. The mobile site plans to soon add mobile image and voice search capabilities.
Editor's Note: Marbridge estimates UCWeb’s mobile browser generates approximately 120-130 mln queries per day, of which roughly 80-90% goes to Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU); Baidu is the UC Browser's default search engine, but a drop down menu offers additional search options of, in order, UCWeb’s own search engine, Taobao, Yicha, and Google. In Marbridge's Q4 2013 Chinese Paid Search Report, we explained that once UCWeb, in cooperation with Alibaba, sufficiently refined its own mobile search engine, it might end its mobile search partnership with Baidu and simply monetize the traffic itself. While no such announcement has been made at this point, we expect one will be at some time in the future. SM.cn already offers image search powered by Bing, but doesn’t yet have its own, self-powered image search channel.