Wednesday, June 24, 2009

China vs Google

There’s a battle going on between China and Google. Google can’t win and China can only lose. Just for the record, its China who started this battle .

The stakes were upped yesterday night, when the Net Nanny blocked Google. Yes b-l-o-c-k-e-d Google. Google everything – Search, Gmail, the works ! I’m gob smacked. What are they thinking ?

For some weeks China has been demanding that Google block searches from throwing up pornographic content. That’s the official stated demand. But we all know what this means. We know what they want to block.

In China, Google is not the dominant search engine. In fact their market share is some 20% or so. The dominant search engine by far is Baidu. This demand for blocking has not been made of Baidu and searches on Google and Baidu throw up virtually the same results.

Google is in a bind. How can they react. If they give in, this is against all that they stand for. If they don't, they get blocked and out of one of the most important markets in the world. Heads I win, Tails you lose.

China has also brought in a rule that from July 1, all PCs sold here have to have a net blocking software called “Green Dam Youth Escort”, preinstalled. Again the ostensible reason in blocking pornography. But we know what the intentions are. The move has raised a separate storm, with a US company Solid Oak claiming that Green Dam has plagiarised its software and threatening to sue. The University of Michigan waded in publishing a host of security weaknesses in Green Dam. What a mess.

Meanwhile a whole host of services – YouTube, Blogspot, WordPress, …. remain blocked.

Something is happening in China. This is not business as usual.

- Maybe this is some form of protectionism – taking sides in Baidu vs Google.
- Maybe there are some internal power struggles
- Certainly this is taking censorship to a new level.
- It is difficult to believe that the nanny really thinks she can win.
- Meanwhile a whole army of people are pissed off.

India can rest easy. China is not a threat to its IT and services industry. Its lead is safe and China is not going to catch up. Not with such asinine stuff.

PS - After I posted this, my blogger friend Hang, posted on this matter in his blog, Beijing Barefeet. Click here to read his post for an authentic Chinese response to internet censorship.