Google earlier this week pleaded the United States, the European Union and other governments to take “concrete steps to ensure that rules in the next generation of trade agreements reflect new challenges of Internet trade.” We all know Google has been fighting with Chinese government against censorship for a year and there is no doubt Google’s act is targeted at their market share in China against another search engine company, Baidu. Even censorship and limited access to certain types of content does affect freedom of speech and information flow, Google, in my opinion, is just like a spoiled kid in this matter. (Reuters)
Don’t get me wrong, I am not supporting any governments’ interference of information nor do I want to work in a country where I have no access to Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. I simply believe there’s a better way of resolving the issue without using “free trade” excuses. And if Google can’t put itself in Chinese Internet users’ perspective to adjust its business model, Google should take its own responsibility, not urging other forces to make everything more complicated.
Is censorship the only reason causing Google’s failure in China? No. I think Google ignores the fact that Chinese searcher behavior is very different from Americans’. According to China Internet Watch, the first Internet application Chinese searcher use is online music. Unlike American use Internet to gather information, users in China go online more for music, gaming, and entertaining purposes. And when it comes to information sharing, chat rooms and forum dominate the majority of searches in China while Americans like to go to blogs and individual websites to gather information.
With such a difference in searcher behavior, I still believe Google should look at the whole situation as an opportunity to collaborate than to compete with other Chinese language search engine provider, like Baidu. I don’t appreciate Baidu’s CEO, Robin Li’s comments about Google leaving China in Web 2.0 Summit and I believe web users, whether being Chinese or Americans, should have equal opportunities to use different channels for information. My hope is that big companies like Google and Baidu will consider partnership rather than buy-out, and focus more on understanding and respecting the market difference rather than forcing the other party to change.
- Fast Company “Google calls on the west to tackle Chinese web censorship”
- Baidu’s market share
- TechCrunch 420M people in China have Internet access, 99% use Baidu for search”