The Baidu Blockchain Engine will be run on the Chinese tech giant's integrated artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing platform. Photo: iStock

Chinese tech giant Baidu has launched a blockchain operating system to support the creation and development of decentralized applications – or dApps – according to an announcement from its cloud computing unit.

The Baidu Blockchain Engine (BBE) will, says the company, be run on its integrated “ABC” technology platform. The acronym stands for artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing, and has the aim of making third-party dApp development faster and simpler.

Blockchain networks, to fully function, need user traffic in the same way that a car needs fuel. And, like all dApp platforms, Baidu’s long term goal will be to see an expanding portfolio of independently-created applications running on its blockchain system that, in turn, will pull in increasing numbers of users to make their network successful.

The dApp world has been much-hyped but, according to Vincent Niu, founder of the Chinese-language blog site dApp Review, global dApp user numbers, instead of growing are falling and this, he says, is because the sector lacks high level content. Nai says “mind blowing” product innovation is needed to move the sector beyond what he calls its current “vacuum stage”

Niu has a point. The most well-known dApp to date is probably the CryptoKittie, that, as its name suggests, provided a platform to facilitate the commercial trade of digital cats, and famously slowed down the Ethereum network in 2017.  Yet, despite all the negative press, the kitties creator, Dapper Labs, recently finished a $15 million fundraising round.

Baidu Inc, currently losing market share to its rivals, first announced plans for a blockchain network last September when it launched its XuperChain network. Founded in 2000, Baidu was for many years known as China’s leading search engine but now faces growing market challenges as its content is increasingly “walled off” by rival networks owned by Tencent and Alibaba

Aside from XuperChain, Baidu’s first foray into dApps was the launch of its “Leci Gou”or “CryptoDogs” platform last year that, just like the feline original, allowed users to purchase, trade, and breed digital dogs. 

Imitation may still be the highest form of flattery in China but it seems the Baidu Blockchain Engine will need something akin to actual originality if it is to help its parent company thrive.

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