Some – including the company itself – are waiting for search giant Google to gain ground over Baidu, the market leader in China. Forget it, says sociologist Tricia Wang in Postnoon. “Google is clueless about the China market.”
Postnoon discusses Google’s policy of confronting the Chinese government on censorship, for example by introducing their latest gadget, pointing the finger at the censors when results are blocked:
Tricia Wang, a sociologist researching the digital habits of Chinese people, sees this as a sign that Google is trying to be nothing more than a “niche search engine in China.”
“I don’t see how this actually reaches their goal,” she says. “First it only antagonizes the government more, and thereby could make it even harder for the existing user base to access Google. So it could be counterproductive. Second, it’s targeting people who are already their existing users, so they’re preaching to the preachers.
Ordinary Chinese users are aware of censorship, she says, but what matters most to them is getting useful results. Google’s new policy does not make that any easier. The only difference is that now, people searching for the Yangtze River on Google will get a warning to change their language or be blocked. On Baidu, people can search directly for the Yangtze because the politically sensitive results have already been weeded out.
Beyond search results, Wang says that Google simply lacks many features that Chinese users want. In Baidu, users can look up train schedules or play Angry Birds within the browser, while Google offers none of that.
“I just don’t think that they understand the Chinese market at all,” she says. “They don’t have any features that makes it overwhelmingly useful for China. … This feature that they implemented, it’s a very self congratulatory, pat on the shoulders, ‘hey, we did it’ — and does not actually do anything to widen their user base.”