03/28/2008 02:45 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why Google When You Can Baidu?

Diners often plunge their chopsticks into shared entrees at even the most upscale restaurants here. This mouth-to-plate maneuver might be considered a faux pas in the germphobic West, akin to George double-dipping a chip in "Seinfeld."

But appreciating such cultural differences is what Inc.'s chief financial officer, Shawn Wang, says gives the Chinese search giant unique insight into the country's 1.3 billion people as it competes with American rivals such as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc.

That knowledge informs innovations large and small, such as Baidu's bowing to local preference in popping up a new browser window when users click on search results. It can also produce features, such as its MP3 search for digital music downloads, that infuriate the entertainment industry.

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