Google Decides to Throw a Haymaker at China
Google today announced that they will take off the filters from Google.cn in a “what the hell? we might as well go out swinging with head held high” blog post. Whether you think it’s brilliant, courageous and/or desperate (I think it’s some of all, with the caveat that I also want a completely free and uncensored web for everyone, everywhere), it certainly marks another milestone in this ongoing clash between one of the world’s tech darlings and China.
Today’s announcement comes a few months after Google’s China chief Kai Fu Lee left the company (I’m venturing a guess that he knew all of this was coming and asked to not be put in the middle of it, and as he obviously wants a future in China, who can blame him). Since then, Google China has been without a clear captain, and rumors recently surfaced that employees had started looking for jobs elsewhere (and today’s announcement would seem to substantiate at least the idea that Google China employees have been prepared for the end). So personnel-wise, things have been in the works for a while now.
Google spent most of their announcement talking about hackers trying to get at human rights activist’s Gmail accounts and emails. There really isn’t anything I want to say about that other than hackers attack companies constantly and sometimes there are breaches and sometimes the hackers are (big surprise) working for foreign governments.
If Google decides to pick up and leave China (and although not out of the realm of possibility of them returning, doing so within say 3 years is probably next to impossible), the reason that they would leave is that they simply are putting too much into their efforts in the market, while denting their image worldwide (by censoring results) and are not getting back enough to justify it all. That’s the reason, plain and simple. And the real losers in this will be Chinese Internet users, who will lose a (not perfect) resource offered by a company that truly believes in the freedom and power of information. Don’t believe me? Google it… sorry, I mean Baidu it.
(Note: Upon re-reading and further reflection, I’ve edited this post since I first wrote it.)