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How Google Screw Up in China, the Missing Story

Last month the IT world is jolted by the news of a security breach of Google's system by Chinese hackers and the subsequence response by Google threatening to pull out their China operation altogether. Many in the west see this as a courageous resistance to China's Internet censorship and a righteous response to the assault on some human right activists. Other observers noted that Google's market share in China is trailing far behind the local competitor, that they may using this incident to give themselves a graceful excuse to exit.

All of them could have learned something from anthropologist Tricia Wang's insightful observation of Google's uses or non-use in China. Tricia is a research scholar working in China to study how youths and migrants are using ICT to manage their inter-personal communication networks. She come up with her observation from the angle of grassroot youngsters.

Among her observations are

  • Google is mostly irrelevant to Chinese users. While elite, educated Chinese depend on Google as much as others do, young people has a very different usage pattern. They mostly use Internet with IM or mobile devices to connect to their friends. They have never found Google to be useful.
  • Google has a huge branding issue in China. Most Chinese cannot spell the word 'Google'! I was amused to find that Google is known by its colloquial name GouGou (狗狗doggy) more than its official name Gu-Ge (谷歌). Here in the west, especially within the IT industry, Google's brand name stands for leadership in innovation and intelligent services. There in the back street of China, Google's name is associated with the lowly doggy. What a satire!

Tricia has an excellent piece of analysis that should be on most reader's radar screen.

2010.02.11 [] - comments

 

 

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