Friday, December 16, 2011

Feeling Lucky? -- Writer's Poke #350



Google’s Chinese weblink is http://www.g.cn, and it looks about as boring as the http://www.google.com we’re all used to in the U.S.  Just for the fun of it, I googled Pete Rose using the Chinese Google, and at least in Minnesota, I wasn’t blocked from receiving information about the best American baseball player of all time. In fact, the Chinese version of Wikipedia even has an entry on the Tienanmen Square Massacre. I thought that was interesting, but since it’s in Chinese, I have no idea what spin it might have; nor do I know if the average Chinese citizen has access to reading the entry.

I use Google, but it’s not my favorite search engine; I’m a Yahoo! man, and I probably always will be until they go out of business. But what if a Chinese search engine company tried to break into the American search engine market? Would I bite? Doubtful.

The Internet should be borderless, but it does seem rather odd that Google, an American company, would expect to be successful in China. After all, China has its own native search engines, and it’s difficult for me to comprehend what Google brings to the table that’s different or better than what China can home-grow.
Google’s involvement in the Chinese internet market also brings up some hairy issues, such as, is it unethical of Google to block sites because the Chinese government tells it to? In the U.S., basically anything goes as far as the internet is concerned, but why should all countries follow the U.S. model?

Sometimes it seems that the U.S. believes that all countries would be better off if they operated exactly as we do, and while some in the U.S. might support some forms of censorship, most don’t like heavy-handed political censorship. Nevertheless, China is a sovereign nation, and it has its own standards of what it will and won’t allow. It’s somewhat troubling to me that some people in the U.S. criticize Google for simply following the laws of the lands in which they operate. As if Google has any other option.

Should American companies operating in other countries follow the laws of the land? If the U.S. doesn’t condone certain policies or laws that other countries have, should our government forbid American companies from operating in those countries?

“With Google I’m starting to burn out on knowing the answer to everything. People in the year 2020 are going to be nostalgic for the sensation of feeling clueless.” – Doug Coupland

“We want Google to be the third half of your brain.” – Sergey Brin

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