Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How Google lost its self-inflicted struggle - Kaiser Kuo

Kaiser_Kuo_HeadshotKaiser Kuo by Fantake via Flickr
When we started in January our little sequel "Why Google is leaving China", people asked us if it would not be an option for Google to stay in China. Even in the early start of the problems Google inflicted on itself, the question was more when and how much of Google would leave China, not if.
The company announced publicly it would no longer censor its search engine a China, a requirement for any internet company working in China. Obviously, you do not have to like that, but publicly defying any government would cause a backlash. And the option of Google reversing its stance seemed also a rather remote possibility. 

But Google made it in the past few months even worse, explains Kaiser Kuo to the Mercury News, by further damaging its already impossible position:
With Google running a distant second in China to Baidu.com in Internet search, Kuo said many Chinese Internet users may care more about preserving Google's popular Gmail services than Google.cn search. Google, he said, lost public sympathy in China when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a speech about Internet freedom just days after Google made its initial threat to stop censoring its search results.
"That sort of gave confirmation to the Chinese suspicion that Google and the State Department were sort of in cahoots on this," Kuo said. "I've seen a lot of Chinese people who might have been quite sympathetic to Google circle the wagons, and say they are concerned by this American scheme to try to destabilize China through this whole business of Internet freedom."
While shutting down its search engine seems a matter of weeks, Google seems to try to keep other services going, says Kuo:
Google "will probably shutter Google.cn" while keeping its research center open and preserving a market presence for Google's Android mobile-phone operating system and Internet-based services like Gmail, said Kaiser Kuo, a China Internet expert who has been following the
confrontation from within China. "It's not a great outcome. It's not the best thing possible for the Chinese Internet user, but it's not as ugly as it might have been."
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Kaiser Kuo is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. When you need him at your conference, do get in touch.
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