Rival Web firms join hands
Updated: 2013-04-23 01:28
By ZHENG JINRAN (China Daily)
The earthquake that hit Sichuan province on Saturday has united rival Internet companies to help people look for missing relatives and friends.
Baidu, the country's largest search engine, launched a platform on Monday that aggregates information to help track missing people. The information was previously scattered on seven websites launched by different Internet companies, such as Renren, a Facebook-like social network, and Qihoo 360 Technologies, a Beijing-based Internet firm.
The platform is expected to save time and be a big help for those who otherwise would have to go to at least the seven websites.
Fan Yu, a resident of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, lost touch with his pregnant sister, who went back some days ago to Ya'an, near the quake's epicenter.
He went online and posted his sister's address and his cellphone number on Sunday.
But he was worried that some people wouldn't be able to see the message if he just left it on one of the platforms, so he posted messages on all of them, which took him hours on Sunday night.
"Now people can see all the information on this unified platform, which accelerates the search," Fan said.
"Many people have called me to provide information about women they believed was my sister," the 27-year-old man said, adding that a stranger from Taiping township later found his sister.
Meanwhile, Du Qingyan, 18, was worried about a friend in Baixiangsi village, Lushan county, one of the hardest-hit areas. She had lost contact with him since the quake hit the area.
Her online request for information spread quickly, and even rescuers in the village helped Du search for the man. Du's friend finally called her on Monday morning. He was safe and sound.
After that, a Baidu employee called her and updated her message, saying that the man had been found.
"It took some time to collect the information from the different platforms since they don't share the same data interface and layouts," said Hai Lei, a Baidu official. "But the integrated platform made it all worthwhile."
But even before the new platform was launched, many people had already found missing friends or relatives through various websites, thanks to kind strangers who posted information about them.
Tencent Inc — one of China's largest Web portals — said that as of 3 pm on Monday, its special online service to track missing people had helped 247 users find out that their relatives or friends were safe, in addition to one confirmed death.
Baidu Tieba, a similar service launched by Baidu before the launch of the integrated platform, said it had helped at least 57 families get back in touch as of Monday afternoon.
Websites allowing users to search for or provide information about people also popped up in previous disasters, including the massive storm that hit Beijing last year.
Last week, Google used a similar service to help people find missing friends and relatives after the Boston Marathon bombing.
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