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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Growing Google China

Google China’s boss, Lee Kai-Fu – who travels to the US every month to bring back a status report to Google boss Eric Schmidt & Co. – has a vision of how to successfully grow according to two articles by from a month ago:

Kai-Fu is (officially) getting full support from Eric Schmidt, who at a press conference when confronted with Google China problems said, “Let me be very crisp ... We are very happy with our Chinese operations.” As far as strategy is concerned, a slightly annoyed Eric added, “We’re not focused on our competitors ... We have our competitors. We’re not focused on them. We’re focused on our users. We’re not focused on revenue. We’re focused on users. Does that make sense?”

Going by reports, Eric seems to be giving the Chinese operations enough freedom to not become a Mountain View clone. According to Caijin, Google China under Kai-Fu – who admits to have never read a financial report mailed from HQ so far – currently focuses on meeting “local needs rather than rush to introduce new products to compete with [Chinese search engine]” To help Google understand Chinese needs, as Google’s Wang Jin says, they “set up a user database, even including a psychologist, to collect regular feedback.” Google China is also given enough time to develop, according to Caijin; Kai-Fu convinced Eric that patience is the key to open China’s door, concluding that a lack of patience is why other internet players failed in this market. Eric agrees: “China is a nation with 5,000-year history ... That could indicate the duration for our patience.”

One of the aspects that might take the most patience is the Google China censorship issue. Currently, Google search self-censors a variety of sites, from human rights watch organizations to certain government-critical news sources. However, if nothing else it makes business sense for Google to censor as little as possible – and route around the Great Firewall as much as possible – in order to provide more features and a better user experience.

[Photo by Keso with some rights reserved.]


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