Google fans living in the shadow of the Great Firewall are breathing sighs of relief today, after the Beijing government agreed to let the U.S. search and ad giant continue to do business in China.
(I'm sure the Googlers ordered up some beef brisket in Wikipedia flavor for everyone to celebrate.)
[ Also on InfoWorld: Check out Google's Chinese acrobatics and Net neutrality, and Cringely points out that Google's Wi-Fi spygate is its BP moment. | Stay up to date on all Robert X. Cringely's observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]
Apparently, that silly website dipsy-doodle Google pulled last week -- putting up a splash search billboard on Google.cn, but still redirecting all search queries to the uncensored Google.com.hk -- was enough for Chinese officials and Google to save face, even though the only difference between the .cn and .hk sites is that the Hong Kong engine shows you what sites the Chinese are blocking.
This move allows Google to maintain some presence in China for its music, translation, and shopping services. Still, it's a little like letting Ford or GM do business on the mainland but only allowing them to sell cup holders and floor mats. Or letting them to display pictures of cars, but not allow you to drive them.
Still, for Google, any piece of the Chinese Internet -- which already exceeds the United States in user population and still has a long way to go -- is better than no piece. What I don't understand is, what's in it for China? The only conclusion I can reach is Google just isn't that important to them.
While Google is a big deal here in the U.S. market, it's more like Bing in China. Baidu controls nearly two-thirds of the Chinese search market, and Google's share is dropping. Aside from the embarrassment caused by what became an international incident (at least, from the U.S. perspective), the Chinese simply may not care that much.