Google’s decision to shut down its Chinese-language search engine is likely to stunt the development of the Internet in China and isolate local web users, analysts say.
The US Internet giant is the only big search player in the world’s largest online market, and its reduced presence leaves a web dominated by domestic firms, meaning less competition and innovation, they say.
“It is becoming more like an echo chamber,” said Jeremy Goldkorn, founder of media and advertising website Danwei.org. “It is one step closer to this word ... Chinternet — or the Chinese Internet becoming more like an Intranet.”
Google on Monday acted on its threat to stop censoring itself in China, redirecting mainland users of its Chinese-language search engine Google.cn to its Hong Kong site, which is not subject to mainland censorship.
But searches from mainland China of sensitive key words on the Google.com.hk site are still blocked, which analysts say means Beijing is filtering the results through its “Great Firewall”.
“There actually isn’t that big a difference in terms of getting information,” said Shaun Rein, MD of China Market Research Group in Shanghai.
Chinese search engine Baidu already had 58.4 per cent market share at the end of 2009, ahead of Google’s 35.6 per cent, according to research firm Analysys International.
The next nearest rival was Sogou, with one percent share would leave Baidu virtually unchallenged.
“It is always better to keep Baidu and the other search engines more honest by having competition from Google,” Rein said.