4 Reasons Why Google has FAILED to Dominate the Chinese Search Market

It has been 9 years since Google entered China Market officially, and 5 years since Google established Google China. Despite having a brand value of an amazing $66.4 billion, Google.cn still fails to dominate the search engine market in mainland China and faces stiff competition from bitter rival Baidu. According to statistics from comScore in early July, Baidu had become the second largest global search engine, with more than 8 billion searches and 145 million unique visitors in June. In other words, Baidu’s market share in China is nearly 76% to Google China’s 19.8 percent. So what makes Google lose out in the developing country?

Here are the 4 reasons why…

Failure 1: Networking

This hasn’t been confirmed by any reliable sources, but I would like to emphasize this to all of you guys. Few years ago, I remember when Google started to launch Google.cn, their servers are located in Beijing, capital of China. However, to my dismay, I found out that Google.cn is even much slower than Google.com, whose servers are based in the US. Of course, this shouldn’t be happening as Beijing is much nearer to my network than the US.

Before the recent large-scale reallocation of telecommunication resources in China, there were two major telecommunication operators that  have Data Centers – China Netcom and China Telecom. Due to the usage of substandard technologies and high cost of telecom devices such as root routers and fiber cables, there was not enough bandwidth between China Netcom and China Telecom. It’s even less than International bandwidth which was mainly supported by the US in terms of technology and funding.

Google.cn was hosted in China Netcom Data Center, and as I was a user of China Telecom. That’s why searching for something on Google.cn would take me “years”. In contrast, Baidu knew the actual statement of the relationship of telecommunication operators in China, and then made use of Content Delivery Network, which enabled users to access Baidu.com in an instance. Therefore, I would rather choose Baidu because it can return faster search results.

Failure 2: ICP Certificate

Do you know why China block so many International websites? The government always uses ICP Certificate to explain. ICP Certificate was first launched in 2003, with an aim to control various sensitive Internet content (especially pornography and protection of copyright). ICP later became compulsory for all websites operating in China. Before 2005, Google did not have a valid ICP Certificate. According to the authorities, Google was operating “illegally” in China.

That is one of the main reasons why Google.com has been blocked for a long time before Google China’s establishment. Many users left Google because they really don’t think it’s worthy to access such a simple website with proxies. As a result, they finally became faithful users of Baidu.

Currently, legal websites including non-profit websites all have an ICP Certificate. So if you want to set up a website in China, you must notice about this crucial issue. Try to get an ICP Certificate before you launch your platform or site to the public. The policy is valid for all websites operating in China, not just websites developed by the Chinese, but also International ones like Twitter or YouTube requires an ICP Certificate too. Otherwise, risks of being blocked are possible.

Failure 3: The choice of domain names

Do you believe that most of Chinese people cannot pronounce “Google” well? So Google China is called “è°·æ­Œ” (Guge) in Chinese, to prevent misunderstanding. Besides pronunciation, there is also an issue in spelling. Most Chinese people have to remember the how to spell ‘Google’ when they want to search something on the search engine. On the other hand, Baidu uses Pinyin instead of English. Hence, Baidu.com is easier to remember than Google.cn.

The folks at Google China tried to resolve the issue by purchasing g.cn, which will then redirect users to Google.cn. But  how about those subdomains? Google China owns image.google.cn, maps.google.cn, video.google.cn, etc. They all begin with English words. However, Pinyin is available in Baidu to visit those entertainment search systems, such as tupian.baidu.com, ditu.baidu.com and shipin.baidu.com.

Failure 4: Inability to Control Sensitive Content

A search engine should not restrict users from accessing to any content, right? Google said YES, but then it failed in China. The Great Firewall is extremely sensitive when it comes to pornography contents. The reason of blocking Google International is that netizens in China can search pornography images via Google Images when the default setting of SafeSearch is off. Few months ago, the government disabled Google’s Keyword suggestions feature, which has been reported as a potential tool for finding pornography content.

In contrast, Baidu has a strong filter to sieve out any unsuitable content that displeasure the Chinese government. As a result, it’s almost impossible to search any sensitive content on Baidu. Google failed because government would not care about its position when all of us have to face the laws. There are always alternatives for users, who will care about Google?

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About Zhou Tong

Zhou Tong is a 15-Year-Old Chinese student who is currently on a scholarship in Singapore. He is an all-rounded tech-savvy teenager - professional web developer (PHP, Ruby on Rails and MySQL), website designer (XHTML/CSS, Internet analyst and a professional tech blogger.