A post on the Music 2.0 blog mentions that Google has launched a legal MP3 (music) search service in China under the URL www.google.cn/music.
The service, which is only available to users in China, will directly challenge the illegal MP3 Search offered by Baidu. Of course, Google’s links will all be legal, and the results will be provided by ‘Top100.cn’.
Users from outside China cannot access the service, and instead see a blank page with one line of text in Chinese, that reads “Sorry, you are not in a region where Google provides this service.”
Google will offer this new service for free, providing streaming music, downloads and lyrics. It will be funded by advertising revenues and paid caller ring back tones via China Mobile. They will provide mostly Chinese music, and most of the major domestic labels have already cleared rights for the service.
How much Google’s new service offering will affect Baidu, is to be seen. The service will definitely be better than other international ones such as We7 and Spiral Frog. Users will be able to keep the downloaded MP3 tracks indefinitely and the downloads will be DRM free, which means users will be allowed to freely transfer music onto their portable devices.
Baidu, which already has a head start on Google, accounts for about 30% of the traffic on these sites.
Google is expected to score over Baidu, as they will share revenue with all their content providers via Top100.cn. Baidu, on the other hand, has always kept all the profits for itself, except lately, when they started profit-sharing with a few of their top content providers.
It now makes good sense for all the music labels and independent artistes to join Google, as they will be assured of receiving their fair share of the revenue.
Top 100.cn, however, will have to work hard to convince all its remaining partners to start providing content to Google, failing which Google’s service will seem incomplete, and that may deter users from switching loyalties from Baidu.
Another problem that Google may have to contend with is apathy on the part of users who are already satisfied with the service provided by Baidu, even though it is illegal.
It must be remembered that other Mp3 service providers in China, have not made any difference to Baidu’s popularity. All these services are of course illegal. It also remains to be seen, if the URL, www.google.cn/music will work in Google’s favor, by creating its own brand identity, or against it as users in China are used to the term ‘MP3’ in the URL of music search engines.
Chinese authorities will now be in a better position to take some concrete steps against illegal service providers, like Baidu, as a legal alternative is now available to users. It also looks as though it will finally be possible for content providers to get even with Baidu for its misbehavior and high-handedness in the past.