Tencent to Build 3000-person Search Army to Power Search Engine

Zhang Liming (张黎明) from Beijing Morning Post (北京晨报) has a report titled as “Tencent learned from Korean Model to Hire a 3000-people Human Flesh Search Army” (腾讯参照韩国模式招三千人肉搜索军团) on April. 10, 2008 on Sina Tech. The author learned the news from industry insiders and quoted quite some comments from CEO Huateng Ma (马化腾) of Tencent Inc.- the largest and most used Internet service portal in China with annual revenue of $520 MM in 2007, about this big bet action. Here is the summarized translation of the report.

Tencent Inc. (QQ.com) is building a 3,000-person search result editor team. The employees will be/are hired as engineers but in fact, their job nature is to edit search results of its search engine called SOSO (搜搜, means “search search” in Chinese) soso.com (which was launched in Dec. 2005).

CEO Huateng Ma (马化腾) didn’t comment on the size of the editor team directly, but compared with the practice in Korean search engine industry: “a 700-person search result editor team in Korea is very common.”

Ma continued to explain why “it is common”: “for example, 20 users might search one same key term, and what they need might be the same information in two paragraphs. But nobody locks the two paragraphs (on the top of search result thus enables a more efficient search for majority of users). So actually people want editing of search results.”

“Tencent is experimenting with ‘human+search’ model. In domestic market, Baidu Zhidao (百度知道) is a similar model, but its editor team is not strong enough.”

When continuing to compare SOSO with other human-powered search engines in Korea, Ma admitted that “one key reason that Korean local search engines beat Google and Yahoo to win the local market is that there are relatively less pages in Korean Internet (for Google and Yahoo to crawl). So I don’t know if human-powered search engine will be successful or not in China. I have a question mark for this model. But Tencent has a portal (qq.com), the edited search results are valuable to the portal anyway (so it worth a try).”

Other posts about Tencent (QQ.com) and SoSo here:

UPDATE Elliott: 4/14 made minor edits

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