Google opts to return to China

Last Updated: Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 12:50

Beijing: American search engine Google chose
to apply for licence to operate in China, agreeing to abide by
all the conditions imposed by the government here after its
share in the burgeoning Chinese market declined to 9 percent.

Since last year, Google has seen its share of the online
mapping market shrink below 10 percent while that its local
rival Baidu Inc soared to 61 percent, official media reports
here said.

Google maps were now listed third after Bidu and
Mapbar.com which has over 10 percent market share, according
to the domestic research company Analysys International.

Moreover, an increasing number of websites that use the
data provided by online mapping services providers have turned
to Google`s rivals, Yan Xiaojia of Analysys International told
state run China Daily.

There are 48,000 websites of this type in China, and
about 60 percent of them used Google`s mapping data in the
first half of last year.

However, the company is now losing its dominant position,
said Yan.

Google has formally applied for licence to operate online
map service to operate in China seeking to return to the
lucrative Chinese market after a year long absence.

China`s mapping service regulator said that Google`s
application for an online maps licence, which is required for
operating such service in China, is under official
examination.

Google, which desisted from applying for licence after
China brought about a new rule making it mandatory for the
companies to have joint venture in 2010 picked up Beijing
Guxiang Information Technology as its partner in China.

China also imposes stringent restrictions on online map
operators which included sticking to its official outline of
borders.

The official online Chinese maps depict Arunachal
Pradesh as part of China?s southern Tibet.

Hong Bo, an IT critic who follows Google, said the
bureau`s statement may deliver a blow to the company.
Internet users will also be affected if Google`s
current online mapping business is further influenced in the
future.

In a statement to China Daily, Google China said that it
had "nothing new to add" to an earlier statement that it was
"in discussions with the government about how we can offer a
mapping product in China".

However, Hong Bo said that the online mapping
service is only part of Google`s business in China, and the
company`s Android mobile operating system is reaching an
increasingly large number of users and is the most popular
operating system among the nation`s smart phone users.

If Google fails to get the licence, it could cause great
inconvenience to many websites and developers that provide
services based on Google Map API (Application Program
Interface), Fang Xingdong, founder and CEO of blog portal
Bokee.

Meanwhile, millions of iPhone and Android smartphone
users will be affected if Google fails to provide mapping
services, as Google Maps is a built-in application in these
smartphones, Yan was quoted by the state run Global Times here
as saying.

Since last year China stipulated that mapping service
providers apply for a licence to operate and foreign investors
have to engage in joint ventures to provide the service.
Companies including Baidu and Sina have obtained their
mapping licences.

Beijing Guxiang is a 50-50 venture funded by Google and
Chinese classified website ganji.com, to operate Google Maps
in China.

Companies need to have a licence to provide mapping
services in China as the service may involve information
related to national security.

Companies that didn`t apply for a licence to provide
the mapping services would not be allowed to continue doing so
after February 1, the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping
said in a statement.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 12:50

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