Google this week said it would stop censoring search results on Google.cn, its search engine for users in China, and that the company may exit China altogether. Google has had a bumpy ride in China, where it trails leading search engine Baidu.com by a large margin and has faced tough government censors. The below timeline tracks Google’s history in China:
Sep. 2000: Google starts offering a Chinese-language version of its search engine for worldwide users.
Sep. 2002: Chinese visitors to Google.com are rerouted to other Web sites as the domain name is temporarily hijacked in the country.
July 2005: Google appoints former Microsoft executive Kai-Fu Lee as head of Google’s China operations. Microsoft sues Google to block Lee from being hired, but the companies later reach a settlement and Lee keeps the post.
Jan. 2006: Google launches Google.cn, a version of its site for Chinese users that censors pornographic and certain politically sensitive search results. Human rights groups slam Google for bowing to Chinese government demands for censorship.
April 2007: Google apologizes for using part of an application developed by China’s Sohu.com in Google software that lets users type Chinese characters by inputting standard English characters.
March 2008: China blocks YouTube and Google News after riots in the country’s western region of Tibet, a move apparently meant to stop the spread of information about the politically charged events. YouTube and other Google services such as Blogger have previously been blocked in China.
Aug. 2008: Google begins offering free, ad-supported downloads of music to users in China in competition with a similar service from Chinese search leader Baidu.
March 2009: China again blocks YouTube. It remains blocked through the present.
June 2009: China publicly criticizes Google for allowing Google.cn to serve up pornographic search results. Google.com and other Google services are briefly blocked in the country before Google removes the sensitive results from its search engine.
Sep. 2009: Kai-Fu Lee leaves Google China to start his own company, in a move seen as a blow to Google.
Oct. 2009: A Chinese group says it is considering legal action over alleged copyright infringement by Google in the company’s book scanning project. Chinese authors and media start adding their voices to the criticism of Google.
Jan. 2010: Google says it will stop censoring Google.cn and that the move may lead it to close its China offices. Google also says it has been targeted by sophisticated cyberattacks that originated in China and appeared meant to access the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
Sources: IDG News Service, Google