Back in March, after negotiations fell flat with the government on censorship, Google “pulled out” of China, redirecting people who entered Google.cn to its sister site in Hong Kong. Now, since that’s run afoul of Chinese laws, Google.cn is back up! Kind of.
According to Google’s blog, the redirect loses Google it’s license to operate the Google.cn URL in China. If there is no actual page on Google.cn, then Google loses its ICP license. Without that, “we can’t operate a commercial website like Google.cn – so Google would effectively go dark in China.”
As a compromise, they now have an actual Google.cn page up, abeit one with nothing more than an image. If you click on the image, you go to the Hong Kong site as per usual. Says David Drummond:
That’s a prospect dreaded by many of our Chinese users, who have been vocal about their desire to keep Google.cn alive. We have therefore been looking at possible alternatives, and instead of automatically redirecting all our users, we have started taking a small percentage of them to a landing page on Google.cn that links to Google.com.hk—where users can conduct web search or continue to use Google.cn services like music and text translate, which we can provide locally without filtering. This approach ensures we stay true to our commitment not to censor our results on Google.cn and gives users access to all of our services from one page.
Over the next few days we’ll end the redirect entirely, taking all our Chinese users to our new landing page—and today we re-submitted our ICP license renewal application based on this approach.
Previously, to get to Google’s pretty awesome music download page, you had to input google.cn/music – but it worked. So I suppose this work around means that it’ll be easier for everyone to use Google’s remaining China services – it’s like Google can tell people it left China (search censorship-wise) without ever really leaving China (search engine-wise).
That is, if Chinese authorities deem the solution good enough. From what I know of Chinese authorities, they’re not always kind to people exploiting loopholes.