Six months after declaring it would no longer tolerate censorship of its Chinese search engine, Google is still trying to have its Peking Duck and eat it too.
In March, Google began redirecting visitors to government-censored Google.cn to its uncensored Hong Kong site, Google.com.hk. Google fans in China could get unfiltered results from the Hong Kong site, but they still couldn't access any sites Beijing didn't want them to see. In other words, Google was telling its Chinese customers its government was censoring the Internet. I'm sure that came as a big shock to everyone.
Yesterday Google announced via a blog post by Chief Legal Beagle Dave Drummond an even more obtuse method of doing business in China. Now when mainland Googlers dial up Google.cn, they get Google.cn. But as soon as they try to run a search, the site redirects them to Google.com.hk.
Why all the HTTP acrobatics?
It turns out Google's license to do business in China is up for renewal, and given Google's public defiance the Chinese are disinclined to renew it -- especially if Google.cn doesn't really exist. And Google has music and translation services hosted via Google.cn it wants people to use. So Google is hoping this "false front" allows China to save face (especially in light of an upcoming U.S. visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao later this year), while allowing Google to continue to do business in China until a) the shackles of Net oppression are finally lifted, or b) it makes another few billion in ad revenue inside the Great Firewall.