The Twittersphere and blogosphere are a-chattering that Facebook is nearing entry into China via a partnership with Baidu, the most-used search engine in the country.
Baidu executives visited Facebook in February, according to reports by local Chinese media outlets that didn’t specify exactly which representatives came to the Palo Alto campus.
Numerous blogs and Tweets suggest that a deal might come soon, or has possibly happened already. However, neither company has formally announced a partnership, so the possible alliance remains a rumor.
While entry into the Chinese market could help Facebook grow its membership substantially at a time when U.S. growth is nearing a plateau, many hurdles would need to be cleared. Largest of all, mainland China’s government has blocked Facebook access within the country since 2009.
People in Hong Kong can access Facebook, and traffic in that region has grown to 700,000 after Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg visited the country in December. Baidu, by contrast, has around 120 million members, approaching a third of the total Internet market in China, which numbers 400 million.
A partnership with Baidu would only gain Facebook a portion of a market already served by numerous local social networks. Even if the two companies together created a new social network, the competition seems steep.
Readers, what do you think about the rumored partnership between Facebook and Baidu?