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Rediff.com  » Business » A 'weakened' Google decides to return to China

A 'weakened' Google decides to return to China

Last updated on: February 2, 2012 15:04 IST

A 'weakened' Google decides to return to China

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K J M Varma in 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 per cent.

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

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

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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 per cent 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.

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Photographs: Reuters

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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.

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Photographs: Reuters

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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".

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Photographs: Reuters

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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 in Beijing as saying.

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Photographs: Reuters

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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.


Photographs: Reuters

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