As the Internet extends its tentacles into every aspect of daily life, more and more Chinese are finding that they just can’t live without search engines.

Yang Yu, a 24-year-old office worker, is busy clicking key words on search pages to find information and clues for her report.

"I use map search to find places I don’t know, use food search to book a suitable restaurant and use music search to find melodies", Yang told Xinhua. "Search engines have become indispensable partners and helpers in our lives."

Yang is only one of 119 million people in China who use search engines more than 7 times a day.

For every ten netizens in China — where the search engine market will generate sales of 1.9 billion yuan (237.5 million US dollars) in 2006 and is growing by 40 percent a year — there are eight power searchers like Yang.

Baidu, Yahoo and Google, the market leaders, are scrambling to increase their market share.

Baidu’s intimate understanding of Chinese people’s search habits has seen it improve content by strengthening cooperation with media groups and closely observing netizen search behavior.

This has paid off. A report by I Search showed Baidu ranked first in 2005 with a 46.5 percent market share, compared with 34.5 percent in 2004.

Yahoo lost its second place to Google which now has a 26.9 percent market share, 4 percentage points higher than 2004.

To reverse its slipping performance, Yahoo is trying to enhance IT capacity and pushing forward cooperation with media groups in efforts to provide better and quicker search results.

Google, on the other hand, has a merger and acquisition strategy. It is hunting for companies who can help it expand its market presence.

The search engine business can be highly profitable. Hou Tao, deputy director of I Search, said the search engine business can make profits from advertising and by getting commission or payments from enterprises.

The revenue of search engine operators reached 1.04 billion yuan in 2005, accounting for 24 percent of total Internet revenues and 20 times more than the 2001 figure.