Back in March, Google won a lot of praise in the West for refusing to censor its search results in China. In a clever move, the search giant redirected Chinese users from google.cn to its Hong Kong portal, Google.hk, which it did not censor.
This decision, however, angered Chinese officials who allegedly threatened to let Google's operating license expire. Now in an effort to appease the Chinese government, Google is revamping the google.cn page to offer innocuous functions like music and text translation. While the site will still host a link to google.hk, it will no longer automatically send users to the uncensored Hong Kong portal. Is this a sign that Google is backing down from its principled opposition to Chinese censorship?
- Google Doesn't Want to Lose Its Redirect Site, write Brad Stone and David Barboza at The New York Times: "Google appears to have made the compromise out of concern that Beijing is preparing to entirely shut down its google.cn, which could confuse users in China by failing to notify them that they can reach the Hong Kong site. Because users have grown accustomed to google.cn it could hurt Google's traffic in China, the world's largest Internet market."
- An Embarrassing Half-Measure, writes MG Siegler at TechCrunch: "Google clearly knew the risks it was taking with their actions -- they did them anyway. That's what made the move seem so ballsy and brilliant. But, of course, that was before the first real punch was thrown. Now that it has been, and they're flinching -- no matter how slightly -- the actions seem less ballsy, less brilliant."
- This Could Be Lose-Lose for Google, writes Martin Bryant at The Next Web: "If the Chinese geovernment doesn't renew Google's ICP license, the company may be forced out of China regardless, albeit without the sense of honour it would have had if it had initiated the exit."
- The Ball's in China's Court Now, writes Chris Cameron at Read Write Web: "While this may technically be in line with Chinese law by not automatically redirecting users to Google Hong Kong, the government officials may not be pleased with linking to the Hong Kong site. If the site does in fact give Chinese users an option to use one or the other, it may be hard to fault them from simply linking to the other site. We should find out more soon since Google's license is up for renewal on June 30th, but it would seem that for the time being, the ball is now in China's court."
- Google Was Foolish to Defy China in the First Place, writes Henry Blodget at Business Insider: "The support for Google's principled stand died down in a day or two, and Google has since been forced to watch the China market grow from the sidelines. Chinese site Baidu has surged in market share, and Google's China share has begun to collapse. And now the Chinese government has gotten sick of Google's clever Hong Kong redirect and is forcing the company to change it. In response, Google will try another half-measure--directing visitors to Google.cn to an intermediary site that will include a link to the Hong Kong site. This will be annoying for users. It will also likely still annoy the Chinese government, which may just eject Google entirely from the country."
- This Is Far From Over, writes Ben Parr at Mashable: "China is too lucrative of a market to pull out from entirely, but censoring search results would go against everything the company's done up to this point. If this move appeases Chinese authorities, then everybody wins, but we have the sneaking suspicion that the Google-China saga is far from over."