Just over two months after threatening to leave China because of censorship and intrusions from hackers, Google on Monday closed its Internet search service there (Google.cn) and began redirecting users to its uncensored search engine in Hong Kong (Google.com.hk.)
Google will keep its Chinese research and sales teams intact.
Chief legal officer David Drummond explains the move: “We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.”
It remains to be seen if China responds by blocking access to the Hong Kong site. The country has not yet offered a response.
In China, many students and professionals said they feared they were about to lose access to Google’s vast resources. In January, when Google first threatened to leave China, many young people placed wreaths at the company headquarters in Beijing as a sign of mourning.
Google currently trails China’s number one search engine Baidu by 30% market share. This new move certainly won’t help Google’s success in China, but Chinese revenue accounts for a fraction of Google’s overall profits.
It could also give a chance to Microsoft’s search engine, Bing to make inroads in the Chinese market. Microsoft’s search engine has a very small share of the market.
note: Google is not the first American Internet company to stumble in China. Nearly every major American brand has arrived with high hopes only to be stymied by government rules or fierce competition from Chinese rivals.
After struggling to compete, Yahoo sold its Chinese operations to Alibaba Group, a local company; eBay and Amazon never gained traction; and Microsoft’s MSN instant messaging service badly trails that of Tencent. [via NY Times]