News from many outlets the past week is that Google is planning to announce a withdrawal from China today. Google's departure will boost rivals like Baidu.com, but it is a no-win scenario for Google.
Google was doomed from the beginning, as we correctly predicted four years ago and then stated later: "Some Americans would hope that the entry of American technology firms like Google and Yahoo into China is the second-coming of Glasnost. Don't kid yourselves.".
Making censorship the centerpiece for its China departure is partly subterfuge to divert observers from Google's failing hopes in China — Google's China operations and "guanxi" chief abruptly departed the company a few months ago; Google has consistently failed to engage Chinese users; and the company last year ran into legal headaches from Chinese authors who accused the seemingly-infallible search giant with copyright infringement. Unlike competitor Microsoft, Google's top American executives have neither the balls nor stomach to continue fighting in China and they have shown that they truly are on "Internet time" and have no ability to withstand a prolonged entry into China.
As much as we expected problems with Google from the beginning, we are still huge fans of the services the company provides in China. Here is a (sometimes sarcastic) list, in no particular order, of what we will miss about Google in China:
1) Google's fantastic travel metasearch feature in China that gives great details on where to find train tickets and other travel deals. It also extends its Froogle.com overseas features into China to give Chinese users a great way to verify and compare online shopping prices for electronics.
2) Google's pruned and narrow Chinese-language news search. We will miss Google's government-sanctioned list of news delivered to us each day.
3) Having Google as a counterbalance to Baidu.com, Sogou.com and other search engines to find better results online.
4) Using Google's Adsense to display Chinese company ads and using Google as a reliable marketing partner to help drive the growth of brands online in China. True, search engine marketing gets easier somewhat when digital marketing firms need concentrate on fewer search engines, but more choice ultimately brings more options for netizens, marketers, and brands.
5) Google's decent English-language mobile mapping features in China. How many times have we been in second-tier cities like Hangzhou or Tianjin and had to type "nearby Starbucks" into our phones? Lots of times. Other Chinese companies will need to provide this service to the small — but important — number of foreign tourists in the country. Maybe now Ctrip.com or eLong.com can put a mapping feature into their mobile sites?
6) Mocking silly analysts outside of China who continuously write how Google — which has between 20-35% of the search market traffic in China — actually has a chance of defeating Baidu.com.
7) Its very cool Chinese domain name: G.cn.
8) The Google staffers and employees in China who will now need to find new jobs.
What will you miss about Google in China? Do you think departing China is in Google's best interest?