Google’s very undiplomatic announcement that it is going to stop censoring its search results in China doesn’t leave much face-saving wiggle room for the Chinese government – a big no-no in Asian culture. Significant blocking of Google in China seems imminent – you don’t go to great lengths to build the great firewall of China for nothing. Google, a data-driven company, knows full well that Chinese users will be discouraged from using a search engine if it is slow or worse, unreachable. Game over as they say.
While it is easy to applaud Google for taking the moral high ground, you almost get the feeling that something else is happening: Google has given up its battle for search engine supremacy in China. Perhaps Google is giving up the fight because China is one of the few markets where local players, like Baidu, command more market share, regardless of who is doing the counting.
While the political repercussions will be interesting to watch, I’m also very curious to see how Microsoft responds. With its Bing, Microsoft seems to have finally put Google in its sights. Will Microsoft try to fill the void left by Google’s virtual departure? Or will Microsoft take a moral stance? Interesting…
Update 2010-03-24: Google’s Mainland China service availability dashboard may show the current status of primary Google services in China.
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