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Indifference, uncertainty cloud Google’s China threat

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Indifference, uncertainty cloud Google’s China threat

Monday, March 22, 2010

••• As the world’s largest search engine Google has been reported to announce its plan of leaving China on Monday, most Chinese Internet users believe they will be ok with a no-Google Internet despite all predictable inconvenience.

In a survey conducted by http://www.huanqiu.com, the official website of the Global Times newspaper, an affiliate of the People’s Daily, Internet users were asked “What’s your opinion of Google’s pulling out of China?”

Up to 84 percent of more than 27,000 respondents answered the “Don’t care” option.

“If Google wants to leave, just do it, and I will turn to Baidu. For sure we can survive without Google,” said an anonymous comment from Shandong Province on the news portal Xinmin.cn.

Google stirred up controversy in the world’s media and on the Internet in January when the company’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, said in a blog that Google might shut down google.cn and its China office due to disputes with the Chinese government and unidentified cyber attacks against its Chinese users.

The drama has continued for more than two months, during which its senior executives reiterated the company’s threat to stop “censoring search results in China,” while at the same time revealing the company was “negotiating with the Chinese government.”

The Chinese government has insisted that it maintains its regulation of the Internet and that foreign companies must abide by Chinese laws and regulations.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt said earlier in mid March that the company’s course of action would be announced “soon”.

“At first I felt sorry for Google, but after so many disputes, many of us get sick of it,” said a posting by “Caidao Rouqing” on the popular Tianya website.

Google has had problems in other countries too, ranging from lawsuits to disputes with governments in Germany, Britain, France, the Republic of Korea and its homeland, the United States.

However, Chinese users fear they will be unable to use the English-language google.com and other Google services, such as Gmail and Gtalk, if Google shuts down google.cn.

The worst but also likely scenario would be “an absolute pulling out” of all Google services, said Peter M. Herford, former producer of the U.S. current events show, “60 Minutes,” and journalism professor with Shantou University in south China’s Guangdong Province.

“Chinese searchers have Baidu and a few minor search engines, and English searchers will have Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo,” Herford said, who is a long-term Google user and Internet observer.

“Google search in China is a minor player, and China is a very small part of Google’s search business. This is not the end of the world by any means,” Herford said.

Still, some netizens do regret the loss of services tailored for Chinese users on google.cn, such as maps, videos, music and translation.

Chinese blogger Ding Wenqiang said people would feel uncomfortable using alternative services at first, but would soon get over it.

“It’s like breaking up with boyfriends or girlfriends. People will find new ones soon,” Ding said.

Internet users in China who rely on Google for business also have their own worries.

Although Google’s threat to pull out did not mention its Internet advertisement businesses in China such as Google AdWords and AdSense, website operators who profit from the business-to-business tools still worry about the uncertainty.

“Google’s advertising services have created a lot of job opportunities in the Chinese Internet market, which has not been noticed by ordinary Internet users,” said Huang Haowen, an I.T. blogger who proclaims to be a loyal google fan.

Li Zhi, an analyst with Analysys International, said that AdSense was the main source of Google’s profit in China and a major competitor among tailor-made advertisement publishing tools in China’s market.

“If Google also pulls out AdSense, Baidu will be more dominant in online advertising business, and that might raise the costs for Chinese advertisers,” Li said.

As of 7 p.m. Monday, Google has yet to make any announcement on its plan of quiting China.
• Source(s): Xinhua News Agency (China)

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