In its battle with China, Google takes a step back

In a bid to placate Chinese officials, Google revamps its site in China

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"It seems to me [that the compromise] is a smart business move," said Augie Ray, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. "Google certainly was not going to get the Chinese government to alter its long-held commitment to controlling content on the Internet. The best Google can hope for is to find an acceptable middle ground so that it can honor its own commitment to unfiltered search results while working within the rules set by the Chinese government."

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research, argued that this week's moves don't indicate that Google has shifted its stance on censorship of content.

"Censorship was Google's line in the sand. It has not crossed it," Gottheil said. "Google did what it said it was going to do. It stopped censoring. For Google, this is mainly a reminder of the stand they took earlier. Their reputation is a business asset. If China accepts their compromise, it helps them keep a larger part of the Chinese market than they would if [they were] completely shut down, but it's not as good as their prior situation."

Enderle, though, argued that the latest move makes Google look "immature and foolish" because it initially took a position it couldn't sustain.

Ray contended that Google had no choice but to compromise if it wanted to remain in the enormous market.

"In the end, it is difficult to imagine that exiting or being forced to exit the Chinese market would be positive for Google," he added. "And it seems the Chinese government would prefer to have Google operating within the country, since having the large and recognized Internet company depart would be potentially embarrassing. There is good reason for the two parties to continue to work toward a mutually agreeable resolution, but in the end it is the Chinese government that will decide what is agreeable and what is not."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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