Google announced it is making changes to its approach in China. At stake: its ability to apply for - and hopefully obtain - the renewal of its Internet Content Provider (ICP) licence with the Chinese authorities. The deadline is tomorrow. The clock's ticking.
What Happened Then
Let's rewind first. Back in March, as Jack Marshall reported on ClickZ, Google started automatically redirecting users of its www.google.cn mainland China engine to its Hong Kong-based service. The move came after attacks to its systems in China in December but more importantly, the Hong Kong service, www.Google.hk.com, was a way for Google to provide mainland users with uncensored content.
Here's what the Honk Kong landing page looks like in Chinese:
What's Happening Now
However, addressing the issue in a blog post, David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer indicated that Chinese authorities "find the redirect unacceptable." "... if we continue redirecting users our Internet Content Provider license will not be renewed (it's up for renewal on June 30). Without an ICP license, we can't operate a commercial website like Google.cn -- so Google would effectively go dark in China," he added. Surely, Google cannot afford to be shut out of the world's biggest market.
Therefore, pleading Google's case on the blog, Drummond said that the company has started implementing an opt-in system, giving "a small percentage" of users the choice to pursue their searches - or not - onto the Hong Kong site.
Here's what the new landing page looks like in English
The next step will be for the search giant to "end the redirect entirely," he said, adding that Google had today "re-submitted its ICP license renewal application based on this approach." He noted that the company is intent on pursuing its research and development work in China - read: funds inflow to the country to sustain the company's R&D operations. Google remains true to its "commitment not to self censor" while abiding to local law - it pleaded, hoping for its licence to be renewed.
What would the search landscape look like if - and only if - Google were not granted renewal of its ICP licence in China?