One of the biggest news stories of January 2010 was the cyberattack on Gmail which was said to have originated in China. Google announced that it would no longer censor search results in China, a move which may lead the search engine giant to pull out of China completely, or at least partially.
A Google departure from the Chinese search scene would be great news for Microsoft, a company which is desperately trying to make gains in the search engine market. Recent reports have indicated that Bing has already made some gains and for the first time in two years has claimed a 10% share of the US search market (read about it here).
But Microsoft’s strategy for the search engine market in China is unrelated to Google’s troubles. The software giant from Redmond has launched an ambitious project that might make Bing the search engine of choice for Chinese users due to its focus on Chinese language processing. Engkoo is a search engine for exploring and learning language, and was initiated by the Natural Language Processing (NLP) team at Microsoft Research. The project aims at creating the most comprehensive Chinese-English glossary and Statistic Machine Translation (SMT) in existence by mining a massive set of bilingual terms and sentences from across the web.
Google’s domination in the search industry hinges on their ability to provide the results that people are looking for in their keyword searches. By focusing on Chinese language search and by developing technology that will detect what Chinese people are searching for and how they search for it, Microsoft can challenge Google in China by offering a superior product. And by offering a high quality, free, online English learning tool for the most populous nation in the world, Microsoft can bridge the language barrier between China and the western world and allow Chinese companies to compete better both online and in the global marketplace.