were a small number of students who still had positive feelings for Google after Hillary Clinton's speech.
However, many of them became disillusioned at another point - when Google chose to
move redirect its servers to Hong Kong. [Correction: the post originally said that Google had moved its servers out of mainland China to Hong Kong. In fact, it redirected some of its mainland services to servers in Hong Kong. For more information, see the author's site.] They believed, often with strong emotions, that Google had given up. The same student quoted previously expressed the feelings best:
"The Chinese government won and Google lost.
Not only did they lose money and the China market, but they also lost
their spirit. I cannot understand why they made this choice. It's
not like Google...
makes me feel sad and I think it is ridiculous. They lost the battle in
China and the Chinese government won. Baidu is also a winner... Google made a
really stupid decision...
When they first came they said 'We're Google. We're the biggest and the best at search.' Now they gave up."
The message students saw in Google's action was that if "big, powerful, idealistic" Google could not make things change, then how could they?
So, where do things stand now?
suggest that Baidu continues to increase its strength over Google (though see here for a different perspective). The initial decline in Google's reach was
not surprising given that many of Google's
previous supporters did not hold it in as high regard as they once did.
But why the possible more recent decline in relationship to Baidu? There are several possibilities but two are particularly worth highlighting. The first reason is
some students may have continued to hold out hope that something could
still happen. After additional time without any significant events, except possibly Google's maintaining its license in China, they became convinced Google was
never going to meet their expectations.
The second reason is
more subtle. There
has been a variety of research conducted on how
factors such as brand image, visual design, etc affect the impressions
people have of technology's usability and usefulness. It's a
complex problem, but some studies do show a connection. For example,
under certain conditions users will rate the usability of technology
higher for a more visually-pleasing design than a less visually-pleasing
design, even when the interaction design is held constant.
In a similar manner it
is possible that the Chinese college students' drastically changed
views of the Google brand caused them to perceive Google's services as less usable or useful
than before. There were hints that this was the case. A once
supportive but now disappointed student's comments responding to whether she still used Google may be particularly
"Yes, but many of the things I see in the search results aren't the things I really want. I
think it is not like the normal Google. I can find things in the
results, but the reality is I can't find the things I really want."
Google's search results really change after the servers move to Hong
Certainly in some ways since they were now no longer self-censoring the
results. Only Google really knows the extent those changes may have
had, if any, on whatever searches that college student used. Regardless, if students were perceiving Google as less usable then reduced usage would not be
surprising. Such a pattern may play out over an extended period of
time, especially if many students had previously been highly satisfied with