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China's internet security giant Qihoo planning global domination

Founder Zhou shares his own Chinese dream

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Controversial Chinese software vendor Qihoo 360 has its eyes on world domination after controversial founder Zhou Hongyi told the local press he wants to turn the firm into the planet’s biggest web security biz.

Qihoo made its name flogging free AV to bargain-seeking Chinese punters and has since gone on to build a successful business around products in several related areas including web browsing, search and internet portals.

Never one to resist an opportunity to engage in some blatant self promotion, Zhou was quoted in the Changjiang Daily News late last week arguing that just as products made in China are now sold throughout the world, so his firm should take the freemium web security model global.

“Just like made-in-China, we must go out and promote China’s uniquely-innovated free antivirus business model to the world, and make [Qihoo 360] the biggest web security company in the world,” he said (tr TechInAsia).

As to whether he can achieve these ambitious goals, the firm has already managed to overhaul Google in the Chinese search market after only a few short months, thanks in part to replacing the US giant with its own so.360.cn search tool on its popular hao.360.cn directory site.

However, controversy has dogged Qihoo for years. In February 2012 all of its products were kicked off iTunes and a year later the Chinese government slapped the firm with an official warning after alleging unfair competition.

The warning claimed that Qihoo effectively used its security software to trick users into downloading its browser and made the AV software 360 Safeguard particularly difficult to uninstall.

Qihoo has also been accused of deliberately exaggerating the traffic figures for is hao.360.cn portal in a bid to attract more advertisers.

To top things off, the controversial firm recently lost two lawsuits brought by rivals Baidu and Tencent over unfair competition.

With this kind of negative publicity, Zhou will face an uphill task flogging his security software outside of China especially in regions where there is already suspicion of anything hailing from the People’s Republic.

It will also have to displace well-established freemium rivals like Avast, AVG, Avira and Microsoft Security Essentials.

Even local arch rival Baidu recently launched a free English language AV product for Windows, although this was more likely a way of testing the product ahead of a China launch than a serious attempt to crack foreign markets.

Undettered, however, Qihoo and Zhou will launch a free security product in English later this year. ®

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