Guide to the Internet in China: Alibaba Group

Ali Baba is a character from the folk tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. (Alibabgroup.com)
Founder Jack Ma, a former English teacher, based the company name on a character in the folk tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. (Alibabgroup.com)

• Name: Alibaba Group
• American Counterpart: Amazon, eBay
• Launched: 1999
• Users: Over 230 million
• Value: $150-$200 billion

Alibaba Group was founded by former school teacher Jack Ma, is China’s leading e-commerce company and includes China’s most popular online payment system, AliPay. Its three main businesses are:

Because Alibaba runs marketplaces and has a huge customer base, with gross sales amounting to $170 billion in 2012, the amount of business that flows over its sites dwarfs that of other e-commerce companies such as Amazon and eBay. This is due in large part to its much larger customer base (China has more internet users than people in the U.S.) and their propensity toward repeat business (Alibaba faces a lot less competition within China than American companies in the U.S.).

Alibaba has announced plans for an initial public offering (IPO) or its first sale of stock to the public in the US, saying the move will make it “a more global company”. However, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which advises the U.S. Congress on U.S.-China economic issues, warned that investors face “major risks” if they buy shares in Chinese companies such as Alibaba Group.

A Guide to the Internet in China: WeChat
A Guide to the Internet in China: Weibo