Blogger Isaac Mao posted Blogger Isaac Mao posted to Google Founders, which provided three suggestions. For me, I don’t quite agree with him, so here are my comments. I do believe that Dr. Kai-Fu Lee is the right person for Google China and the current strategy is right. (Come on, I have no relationship with him:) Well, probably in detail, Google China needs some improve/change, but the fundamental strategy is right. You can say no to me, please leave your comments freely.
Dear Larry and Sergey,
I’m writing you the short letter on behalf of many Internet users in China to have some suggestions to resolve the current dilemma for Google in China, from both business and social perspectives.
Google China now is not exactly in a dilemma. When we say dilemma, which means you can not go either way. However, we can see the progress in China. The marketing share decreasing in China is not necessarily the dilemma.
During the National Day holiday week in 2002, when Google.com was blocked in China for the first time, Chinese Google users made an online protest spontaneously. They appealed to free the purer search engine wave by wave. Its seemed its also the first time grassroots power was demonstrated in China on Internet. You can imagine how eager they are to have a complete Internet instead of a shrinked one. At last, people won, Google backed. However, after 4 years, we started to question whether we should continue to support Google. Many users here were disappointed when they found Google.cn filtered many keywords. The compromise remarks by you in Davos made us more frustrated. Seems you are adopting self-censorship which hurts those loyal users a lot which also devalue your motto of “non-evil”.
Here your basic assumption is that GFW is evil, and when Google filter the content himself, it is kind of evil. Let’s put it this way, if you can access google but usually get a connection reset, are you annoyed? Yes, we are professional user, we can bypass the sensitive keywords, we can setup proxy, we can do everything to fight with GFW. But the problem is, what should the common user do? The are expected to get a result, no matter sensitive or not, related to their search. However, sometimes, even their keywords are not sensitive, unfortunately, in the returning result, there is a sensitive content. Boo, they get a connection reset. Who can they blame? They are using Google, right? GFW will not say: “Sorry, your connection is reseted by GFW, please try later or dail XXX for more information”. To guarantee the user experiences, some compromises are needed here in China. I know nearly every blogger in China consider the GFW as evil. However, self-censorship is a down-to-earth strategy to make things work and protect Google itself in China. I think the Google’s philosophy is first make it work, then improve it. It is hard to say this is evil or not. For instance, if you can use Google but usually get the annoying connection reset everyday, what will you do? Will you choose Yahoo! or Baidu? Actually Google.cn is facing the small-business more than the blogger as the small-business will bring google the major income in China. Thus, to make the Google search work in China is much more important than other issues like the content. To assume every user has the technical knowledge and is patient enough to use Google behind the powerful GFW is gratuitous.
Google is ever regarded not only a leading Internet business, but a hope for many people around the world to open their thinking. Many bloggers in China still believes that in their everyday writings. We guess you were misled by incomplete information on how censorship is good to Chinese people. The fact is Google in the 130M-Internet-Users country is losing loyal users with loosing your principles. We understand its tough to anyone to make decisions. But it high time to change it back to the right track. Here we would like to propose 3 ideas to Google for its China strategy in a long term run, to survive, and live better:
The question is, who is the loyal users for Google now? Let me put it this way, do you really think that the Blogger in China will contribute more to Google China than the common user in terms of the income or searching market share? Do you really think the small business will not pay for Google only because Google self-censored the content without the overall quality of related AdWords?
1. Set up a 1B US$ corporate venture fund to invest in China’s Internet pioneer sites and cutting edge companies. The venture fund can be managed by experienced fund managers and industry gurus who really understand the value of Google, as well market potential of China. In my estimation, a venture fund with such a size can invest over 100 deals totally cover 60% of Internet traffic in China. With venture fund strategy, Google can play its manageable chaotic game in a capital way.
This idea is really bad. If Google really wants to setup up a VC, the best place for this fund is Silicon Valley instead of China now and in the near future. The main problem for Google China is the market share in the searching market instead of the whole Internet market. To invest the Internet company in China, which is actually invest the accessing point of Internet and the content producer or communities in China, Google will maintain a very long product line. The things is: you can not solve the dilemma in China in a capital way, Google China needs no money from the capital market. If this fund is for obtaining the market share or communities in China, the best way to manage this fund is Google China team themselves. We always emphasis the concentration of a company when they make the decision, which is also true in China. If Google want to play the game in a capital way, OK, please just suggest them to move the whole China technical team to Seattle or MV to develop other products or do the localization, and convert Google China to another Sequoia. VC can earn money, but is it really what Google China want? I don’t think so. The marketing share in search is quite hard to gain simply via investing. Google China now has 200- technical members and probably about 200 marketing/hr employees, which is rather a small team. You can image that for them, the localization is quite a heavy task, not to mention the product development for China market. Of course this small team can not take charge with the management of the fund. However, without their feedback, how can the VC choose companies to comply with the whole strategy of Google China. In one word, VC is good, but not helpful to solve the dilemma for Google China now if you say it is a dilemma. This strategy is in fact not a strategy. If this is a strategy for Google, it is also of Microsoft, for Oracle, for IBM, even for Citigroup, for American Express, for every Top 500 companies that wants to gain more money/market share in China.
- Develop anti-censorship tools and service for global Internet users. In China as well some other coutries, censorship is still a tradition in culture. We are accustomed to control or to be controlled(It’s true!). But it’s too far from modern humanity and universal value. It won’t target China only, instead its a global issue to be solved. So it won’t cause Google’s operation in China into trouble. The budget to complete the mission will be not more than several millions dollars.
Good willing, but not easy to implement. I don’t know if you have heard about Tor. Tor is a tool to protect your content from GFW. However, to develop the product officically and distributed it openly is under a very high legal risk. For example, if we have this tool, can the gov-er-ment say: It is not legal to use this, as it is not legal to use a GPS speed camera detector? Of course the gov-er-ment can ban this tool like banning the speed camera detector, even these two things are inherently different (one is dangerous, one is for freedom). Actually, GFW is not the Google’s source of trouble in China. If the only issue is GFW, how can the smartest people at Google not come up with this idea? As you know, it is hard for google to obtain a permit to collect the news in China, that’s why Google News in China is called Google Information. It somehow reflect the key issue: the gov is the key constraint for Google China. However, how can Google blame/fight with the gov apparently in China if it wants to start the business? The only way to solve the dilemma is the combination of time and public relationship, which is in fact not a technical problem.
3. Increase the incentive to Chinese Google Adsense users. This can dramatically encourage more Internet users to participate Google’s business ecosystem. It’s a pure business strategy to increase loyalty as same important to Google’s products in China. Anyway the tactic should be deployed with better localized customer service to respect to individual users and protect their less to hundred-dollar income.
True, but unachievable. It is in fact the unfair competition and will essentially impair the whole searching market in China, which is also not good for Google.
Google is not alone. There are still several millions Google fans in China, especially those bloggers who are more real time intelligent to outside world. If Google do good as they did in early days. There will be more supporters for sure. Google is not playing a game of itself. You may under-estimate that before with limited information sources. People here are looking forward that you can pick the three suggestions(or partly) as China strategy in the coming years which can keep Google’s “non-evil” motto alive in people’s mind. It will also benefit to Google’s business in China. It will be also benefit to the whole Internet neutrality in China. All the Internet users will appreciate that eventually.
True. I am also a GFan. Support is not everything in China, right? We have supported someone in the history, but the result was not tah as we expected. If Google’s opponent in the game is baidu, support is everything. If the opponent is gov which you want Google to be the other player, it is a fatal game and usually no winner, support is nothing.
All of all, the pure the better; the more compromise, the worse.
You bet, but it is a further goal. Now, let’s face the truth: In China, more people choose Baidu while Baidu does the self-censorship ever since the very beginning. Why Baidu success, because of the pure? Well, I am not going to say: be evil. The key is: know the real situation in China, understand the local policy and have the good relationship with the gov. Sounds evil, but it is true. And I can see the progress, I think Google will be out of this trap soon.