The English-language web site alibaba.com specializes in business-to-business trades, especially for international buyers trying to contact Chinese sellers. The Chinese-language web site china.alibaba.com focuses on business-to-business trades within China, while www.taobao.com is a consumer-to-consumer trade site for Chinese customers. The Japanese language website "Japan.alibaba.com" is for Japanese customers.
Japan's Softbank was one of the earliest investors in Alibaba. Its founder, Masyoshi Son, invested $18 million in the company in 2000 and also participated in subsequent rounds of financing. 
On August 11, 2005, Yahoo! announced that it would purchase a 40% stake in the company for US$1bn plus Yahoo!'s Chinese assets (worth about US $700M). Alibaba will take charge of Yahoo! China, and Alibaba's founder Jack Ma will remain.
As of January 2007, the Alibaba Group is made up of 5 sub-companies:
Alibaba.com: English language global trade website serving small and medium-sized enterprises.
Taobao.com: Online auctions web site for customers.
Alipay: Online payments web site, processing mainly payments within China.
Alisoft: Provider of web services to the Chinese Small and Medium-sized Enterprise marketplace.
Alimama: Online advertising exchange, which allows web publishers and advertisers to trade online advertising inventory.
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