China's largest search engine, Baidu, has begun offering downloads of its new Internet browser, which boasts its own collection of 30,000" apps" that can quickly connect users to online games, videos and other tools.
A beta version of Baidu Browser was released on Monday. The browser is advertised as "simple and reliable", offering secure navigation of the Web to protect from malware. But the browser also has a "treasure house" feature, which functions like an app store.
The apps featured on the treasure house, however, do not work as software downloads. Instead the free apps launch through the browser as online programs hosted by Baidu. The apps include a wide range of offerings such as music players, cooking recipe providers and comic book readers. Users can add the apps to their browser homepage, essentially bookmarking them.
Baidu currently has 75.9 percent share of Internet search engine revenues, with Google a distant second according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys International. The browser -- which has an address bar that can also function as a Baidu search bar -- is meant to further solidify the company's hold over the market. The browser was also built with the company's "box computing" strategy in mind, a concept where users can not only search for results on Baidu, but also execute commands and launch apps within the browser.
Microsoft's Internet Explorer has long dominated China's Web browser market. But in recent months Internet Explorer has fallen in popularity, down to 62.9 percent from the 83.3 percent it held in February, according to CNZZ.com, an analytical Web research site.
Internet Explorer appears to have lost those user numbers to a web browser by Chinese security vendor 360, which has 19 percent usage share in the country. Other Chinese companies like gaming and social networking operator Tencent also have their own web browsers.
Google's Chrome browser has 2.5 percent user share in China. Mozilla's Firefox has 2 percent.