Shares of Qihoo 360 (NYSE:QIHU) jumped over 6 percent on Monday morning, hitting a new 52-week high of $29.59 per share ahead of the launch of an ad service for its increasingly-popular search engine. Successfully monetizing the growing search platform would open up a new revenue stream at the expense of its major competitors in the space, Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) and Sohu (NASDAQ:SOHU).
Qihoo built its base on Internet and mobile security software (360 Safeguard) and made its name with its browser (360 SecureBrowser or 360SE). In September 2012, Qihoo reported 303 million monthly active users for its 360 browser, a 28.9 percent year-over-year increase, making it the second-most popular browser in China behind Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Internet Explorer.
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The company launched its search engine in August and rapidly claimed as much as 10 percent of the market, capitalizing on a vacancy left by the exit of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) from the market. Baidu is by far the largest search provider in the country with as much as 78.6 percent of the market, but Qihoo’s rapid growth put it in number two within as few as five days on the market.
TechNode reports that Qihoo will officially open its search marketing service on January 1. In many ways, monetizing search is the last major step that Qihoo needs to take in order to seriously begin its speculated take down of Baidu. Over the course of 2012, investors have been increasingly bearish on the market’s to pdog and increasingly bullish on the underdog…