Listening to Baidu founder Robin Li speak about Internet search in China is like hearing someone sharing ancient Chinese wisdom.

Yet Li hardly has a wrinkle on his face, or a speck of gray in his hair. He's just a 37-year-old, soft spoken U.S.-educated engineer, who started a search company in China at just the right time -- 2000. It was when the Internet bubble burst, and the Internet was out of vogue. Oh, the quiet days.

Still, Li's community-based approach to search has made Baidu not only the No. 1 search engine in China, with 50% market share, but perhaps one to mimic.

Consider: Baidu has its main search engine with a clean interface, but it also has Baidu Knows and Baidu Postbar, and a newly-formed Baidu-pedia (a Wikipedia in Chinese).

These three services -- accessed via tabs on the Baidu search home page -- are community-oriented. They serve to keep Chinese Internet users drawn to other people using Baidu, according to Li, who recently sat down with me at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco. In many ways, Baidu is perceived as a community or social network, not just a search engine.

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