International diplomacy has never been Google's strong suit. But based on it's size and number of global netizens that use its engine exclusively for search, it has always seen itself as a powerhouse in getting what it wants. However in my recent post, titled, "Google Is No Secretary of State When It Comes To Diplomacy in China," it's clear that one stumbling block in Google's attempts at world domination is China.
With China's Internet users growing from 384 million at the end of 2009 to an anticipated 840 million by year 2013, and Google's market share dropping to 30.9 from 35.6 percent three months earlier, its clear that Google is losing ground based on its debate with the Chinese government over G-mail accounts being hacked back in January.
Close to pulling out of the country altogether and losing millions of revenue dollars as result, Google took an intermediary road of redirecting users from its Google.cn page to its Hong Kong homepage (Google.com.hk) - a work-around band-aid solution- which until June 29th had slipped under the Chinese government's radar.
Now with Google's Internet Content Provider (ICP) license coming up for renewal, the government has made it clear that the auto-redirect is no longer going to 'cut the muster.'
David Drummond“Google would effectively go dark in China,” Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said in the blog posting. “It’s clear from conversations we have had with Chinese government officials that they find the redirect unacceptable.”
The dispute with the government has cost Google partnerships with China Unicom (Hong Team Brin-PageKong) Ltd. and Motorola when Google stopped the 'self-censorship' of the Google.cn portal ending cooperation with the laws of a state that bans references to content deemed politically unacceptable.
According to a NY Times report, Drummond wrote that in an effort to continue to serve Google’s Chinese users while placating the government, the company is proposing a compromise. In the next few days, it will stop automatically redirecting users to its Hong Kong site.
Instead, Chinese users will see a page at google.cn, which offers a single link to the Hong Kong site, where they can determine on their own whether or not to conduct searches or use other Google services, like translation and music, that require no filtering.
China’s foreign ministry on June 29 declined to comment the NY Times.
“This approach ensures we stay true to our commitment not to censor our results on google.cn and gives users access to all of our services from one page,” Drummond wrote.
Baidu, China's leading search engine stands to be the biggest winner no matter how this issue shakes out, as it has been gaining all of the new Internet users coming on board throughout this entire debate. It has an identity with the Chinese people as a trusted site, and while censorship plagues many, they also fear reprisal from the government should they be viewed as Google-sympathizers.
And to add insult to injury, Baidu plans to hire 30 mid-to-senior-level software engineers from Silicon Valley at a job fair on July 10 to drive new technology projects, its first direct hiring from the United States, a Baidu spokesman said.
UPDATE- July 9 - Reuters - Google Inc has been given the green light by Beijing to continue operating its Chinese search page, averting a potential shutdown of its flagship search site in the world's biggest Internet market. "China has renewed our license," a Google spokeswoman told Reuters on Friday. "We are very pleased that the government has renewed our ICP license and we look forward to continuing to provide web search and local products to our users in China."