Just a few days after, getting renewed its Chinese licensing for Internet Content Provider (ICP) permit from the Chinese government – Google in China has launched a new beta portal through Google.cn domain, dubbed “Google Shihui,” that catalogs group buying deals, a return to activity there after pulling back from its operations in China more than a year ago.
Shihui (means “timely benefit”) is an experimental search feature that aims to help people find deals through China’s enormous number of group buying sites, said Google spokesman Robin Moroney.
The country’s group-buying market has exploded in the past year to include more than 4,000 sites, according to analysts.
Google Shihui also allows the company to tap into burgeoning market, without having to establish its own group buying company in China. U.S. company Groupon launched its own Chinese site in the country earlier this year, but the joint venture has struggled to compete and has been laying off staff by the hundreds.
Moroney told to IT World, hat “Shihui is in the early stages of development and we’ll be working with our partners to see what features drive the best traffic to their sites and also what features guide users to the offers that are most valuable to them.”
Shihui probably won’t draw the attention of China’s Internet censors because it relates to e-commerce, said Mark Natkin, managing director for Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting.
“It’s a fairly safe neutral area of business in which Google can participate without risking as much,” Natkin said. “Google is still very interested in growing its business in the China market and has realized in areas like Web search it may face more significant challenges than in less sensitive areas like e-commerce.”