Sunday, January 17, 2010

Google Gets Interesting!

Google has been making some headlines this past week.  If you haven't already heard, Google made a statement regarding their business in China.  It addressed two issues regarding the Chinese government.  First, to operate as a search engine in China, it must filter its search results according to the local censorship laws.  Second, a number of Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents and human rights advocates were hacked, apparently by the Chinese government or an organization backed by the Chinese government.  In essence, Google's statement said that they were fed up with China's violation of human rights, will no longer censor its search results, and is threatening to pull their business from the country.

Are They for Real?
As you may have guessed, many pundits have commented on Google's real motives.  Among some of the more improbable was that since Google trailed Baidu in popularity in China and saw no real way of gaining ground, they were using human rights as an excuse to exit this market.  Are you kidding me?  Just because they were trailing in market share, their business was still profitable.  It's like Pepsi saying, "we can't gain market share from Coke in the US, so we're discontinuing our operations there."

So, what's the real motive behind Google's bold move?  Henry Blodget wrote a great post on what he thought and I could not agree more.  I'll do a quick summary here for those who don't have the inclination to read Blodget's post.  A few years ago, Google entered the Chinese market, but only to abide by the Chinese censorship laws.  Many pundits criticized Google for succumbing to the evil clutches of the Communists in return for doing business in China.  Between now and then, Google had acquired about one fifth of China's market, which is by no means a small number, with the total number of internet users at just under 400 million. Google patiently waited until their business was significant to the Chinese people to try to make its move.  Google has had a history of making its voice heard regarding political issues (read my previous post on Google), and this is no different.  It's main motive, I believe, is to put pressure on the Chinese government to relax its censorship laws and to respect the human rights of its citizens.

Will Google really pull out of China?  I don't think so; there's too much money in China to do that.  But it is a move to mobilize the Chinese people, other foreign companies operating in China, and even the US government to engage China on this issue.  I don't know how this will play out, but keep your eyes open.  It'll be an interesting one.

What's My Take?
For those who have read my previous post on Google, you know I love the company but is at odds with some of its political opinions.  However, I really admire their top dogs this time around.  To threaten to leave this most lucrative market is a bold move, but for the reasons of pushing human rights makes it an even more laudable act.  Obviously, Google's stance cannot be 100% altruistic (perhaps they're trying to gain some good PR and free advertising, etc.), but this move is nevertheless quite risky for them.

Well, life is never black-and-white.  While I despise Google's support for same-sex marriage, I admire their courage in standing up against the Chinese government.  What I do think is that Google really tries to live by its motto, "don't be evil."  At least their intention is good.  Some of their opinions are just muddled by the liberal thoughts that's so prevalent in North America today.

Final thought: Can someone please make converts of Eric, Larry, and Sergei (CEO and co-founders)?  I cannot imagine what impact Google would have on the world if it were run by three devout and morally upright Catholics!