Google goes local in China

Google has rolled out a version of its Google Local service for China.

Looking for a coffee shop in Kunming? Google Inc. can now help.

Google has launched a Chinese-language version of its Google Local service, called Google Bendi (http://bendi.google.com), for mainland China, offering Chinese users the ability to search for businesses close to where they live. In Chinese, "bendi" means native or local.

The Google Bendi service, which is still in its beta form, provides maps for businesses in 77 major Chinese cities -- including Kunming, the capital of China's southwestern Yunnan province -- and offers contact information for businesses in a further 100 cities, Google said on its Web site.

However, Google Bendi doesn't offer all of the features that Google Local offers elsewhere. For example, China users can't search for a local business by sending an SMS (short message service) message from their mobile phones as the function does not appear to be offered with Google Bendi.

The introduction of Google Bendi comes amid signs that Google is losing ground in China to rival Baidu.com Inc. In a recent report, the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), which oversees the .cn top-level domain name, said Google has failed to attract many young Internet users, including college students. Instead, most of these users prefer to use Baidu, CNNIC said.

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