China renews Google web licence
China renews Google web licence
By Geoff Dyer in Beijing
Published: July 9 2010 14:51 | Last updated: July 9 2010 14:51
Google said on Friday that the Chinese government has renewed its operating licence, indicating that a surprise compromise has been reached between the US internet group and the guardians of the internet in China.
In a brief announcement posted on its own blog, Google said that the renewal of its Internet Content Provider licence would allow it to continue providing “web search and local products to our users in China”.
Google to resume Street View photography - Jul-09.Sniffing in StreetView’s tracks - Jul-09.In depth: Google - Apr-12.Security concerns hold back Huawei - Jul-08.Beijing silent over Google offer - Jun-30.Google searches for truce in China - Jun-29..The announcement means that Google can keep operating its google.cn website and removes the immediate threat that the US group would have to withdraw completely from the Chinese market, which is the world’s largest, with 400m users.
Google has been at loggerheads with the Chinese government since its announcement in January that it would no longer self-censor the searches on its Chinese website. The statement exposed the starkly different views between the US and China about how the internet should be managed and set up a rare public showdown between a multinational company and the Chinese government.
● 2000 Google begins offering a Chinese-language version of Google.com
● January 2006 Google.cn is launched amid widespread criticism. Google agrees to block certain websites in return for being able to run a local Chinese service. The unfiltered Chinese-language Google.com is available
● June 2006 Google.com blocked in China, while Google.cn continues to work
● September 2007 Google.cn receives a licence from Beijing, allowing it to officially operate in China
● January 2009 Chinese regulators criticise Google for making pornography available in its search
● June 2009 Chinese regulators “punish” Google China for failing to remove pornographic content from search results, including a suspension of its ability to search foreign websites
● January 2010 Google says it will end censorship of its search service in China and is prepared to pull out of the market
● March 2010 Google announces it has stopped censoring its search services on its local Chinese service. All search requests on Google.cn are now being redirected to Hong Kong arm
● June 2010 Beijing threatens to shut it down by the end of June
..The US group’s initial solution was to automatically redirect users of google.cn to its Hong Kong website, which operates outside of mainland Chinese restrictions. However, in a statement posted in late June, Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond said that the Chinese government had deemed the redirect scheme “unacceptable” and had not renewed the company’s ICP licence, which expired at the end of June.
Google’s new arrangement is to send mainland users to a landing page from which they can click on a link to the Hong Kong website. Although this means that Chinese internet users only have to click one more time in order to be redirected, the approach appears to have won the approval of the Chinese authorities for the time being.
“The big thing for Google is that this takes away a lot of the uncertainty, which will allow them to sell advertising and do many other things,” said Duncan Clark, chairman of BDA China, a Beijing based technology consultancy. “But it is still not clear yet what the commercial impact will be of moving from one-click to two-clicks.”
The risk of prolonged uncertainty, analysts said, was that the company would suffer a significant migration of staff.
Officials at the Chinese State Council Information Office were unavailable for comments last night about the licence renewal. In one of the few public comments in recent months, Wang Chen, head of the SCIO, said last week of Google: “We’ve long said that to develop in China, you must abide by Chinese laws.”
Even with the renewed licence, however, analysts said that Google could still encounter problems, including slow access to its websites or the complete blocking of google.com. Chinese internet users can access the company’s US website, but searches on sensitive subjects are censored.
However, a complete withdrawal by Google from the Chinese market would have been an embarrassment for Beijing at a time when its treatment of multinationals is coming under heavy criticism. At the end of last year, Google had a 30-per-cent market share, well behind the leader Baidu, but it does have a loyal following among young, educated Chinese people.