Google, the world's most popular Internet search engine, yesterday launched a Chinese-language service that will be stripped of content deemed offensive or subversive.
The California-based company rolled out a new version of its search engine bearing China's Web suffix ".cn," on Wednesday. A Chinese-language version of Google's search engine has previously been available through the company's dot-com address in the United States.
By creating a unique address for China, Google hopes to make its search engine more widely available and easier to use in the world's most populous country.
China already has more than 110 million Internet users and the audience is expected to swell substantially, which is an alluring prospect for Google as it tries to boost its already rapidly rising profits.
But initially, Google's Chinese service will be limited to searching Web pages and images. The company also will provide local search results and a special edition of its news service.
The self-censorship was the first for Google in China, though the company does not restrict access to Websites on its English-language search engine. Government censors do block links to forbidden materials. Other Internet giants including Yahoo and Microsoft's MSN have also censored materials.
The government bars access to 20 broad content categories, including pornography and other banned material. Cyber surfers who enter forbidden keywords in the search engine at the new www.google.cn will receive this message: "In line with local laws and policies, parts of the result are not listed."
Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba and Yahoo China, and a Microsoft spokesman also said they respect Chinese policies and censor content in their search engines, blogs and e-mail services.
People who use Google's English service in China won't be affected by the self-censorship. "The new website is a platform designed specifically for Chinese users, and we plan to launch products similar to those on our English-language service here as well," Cui Jin, a Google China public relations representative, said yesterday.
Under the lead of Kaifu Lee, Google China's incoming president and a former Microsoft vice president, Google has recruited more than 50 engineers to advance its plans, according to Cui.
Baidu.com Inc., a Beijing-based company in which Google owns a 2.6 percent stake, currently runs China's most popular search engine. But a recent Keynote Systems survey of China's Internet preferences concluded that Baidu remains vulnerable to challenges from Google and Yahoo Inc.
"We firmly believe, with our culture of innovation, Google can make meaningful and positive contributions to the already impressive pace of development in China," said Andrew McLaughlin, Google's senior policy counsel.
(Shanghai Daily, CRI January 26, 2006)