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Baidu launches Open Network blockchain beta for SMEs

By Lawrence Gash

Chinese search giant's low-cost service aims to lower entry barrier to technology

Chinese internet giant Baidu has launched the public beta for its Open Network.

Under the umbrella of the company’s existing Xuperchain blockchain network, the open-source project aims to target small-to-medium-sized businesses and encourage the development of decentralised applications (dapps).

Founded in 2000 as an internet search engine, Baidu now employs over 45,000 people around the world, with a market cap of more than $47bn (£35.8bn, €42bn).

It is involved in developing technology such as blockchain and artificial intelligence and this latest project aim to lower its cost. For the next two months, users of the Open Network can deploy a blockchain application for as little as ¥1 ($0.14, £0.11).

In October President Xi Jinping urged China to seize the opportunities of blockchain, describing it as an important breakthrough in independent innovation of core technologies. Chinese companies have since rushed to embrace it.

According to the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’s blockchain research institute, Xi's speech triggered a significant rise in blockchain-related companies. However, of the 33,000 companies registered by the end of November less than 10 per cent actually use the technology.

So Beijing will welcome Baidu’s low-cost Open Network, as it does not require users to build the blockchain themselves.

The underlying code for Xuperchain has been open-sourced since May 2018. According to Baidu, the blockchain has already had over 3.5 million users and processed 450 million transactions.

By empowering SME companies, Baidu hopes to compete with China’s other major corporations. Alibaba’s Ant Financial, which has 900 million users in China, is due to release its consortium blockchain network next month, while both JD.com and Tencent have both published white papers on intended launches of Blockchain-as-a-service platforms.

Further Reading: Alibaba’s $150bn tech unicorn quashes IPO speculation

Further Reading: Major Chinese bank CCB launches blockchain refactoring platform

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