Google and China – it ain’t over ’til it’s over
Google’s decision to effectively pull out of the Chinese market was one of 2010’s biggest search-related stories.
The world’s fastest growing company versus the world’s fastest growing economy was quite a match-up. There was though only ever going to be one winner. But as Rocky Balboa famously said, “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”.
Google was congratulated for refusing to continue censoring its search results, but predictions of a return to China at some point in the future started doing the rounds before the ink was dry on the announcement.
Google is the world’s largest search engine, the web’s most visited site and arguably its most powerful brand. It has branched out beyond its traditional markets providing everything from office apps to operating systems for mobile phones.
There can be little doubt that Google will have a major influence on our online lives for the foreseeable future. Certainly it has competition across its various businesses, but all the evidence would appear to suggest that Google is going from strength.
Mobile operating systems, for example, is one of its newest ventures. But a report out this week put its share of the US smartphone market ahead of Apple’s. Try as it might, Microsoft is struggling to counter Google’s dominance of the search market, while Google Docs is winning over more and more businesses that had previously looked no further than MS Office.
China meanwhile is on course to become the world’s biggest economy. Its double digit growth has been all the more remarkable over the past couple of years as the rest of the world has languished in recession and financial turmoil. With a population of 1.2 billion and a growing middle class, this is surely China’s century.
Google has no doubt been lobbying away behind the scenes trying to find a compromise that would let it access what will one day be the world’s most lucrative consumer market, without betraying its commitments to “do no evil”.
The smart money appears to be on Google and China finding that compromise. Comments earlier this month from Google CFO Patrick Pichette confirmed that the company was looking for a way back in.
But Google is of course not the only search engine. Baidu, China’s most popular search provider, is already an established online brand. It is the most visited site in China and the sixth most popular website globally, according to Alex.com.