It's been a bit of a news rollercoaster for Google the last two days as initial reports showed that Google search was entirely blocked on mainland China, then it was just blocked a little bit and over-reported due to a glitch, then, really for sure, it was an issue with the Great Firewall, as finally reported by ZDNet's Sam Diaz. As he put it,
Following a closer look at the circumstances, Google has said the problem was not related to a glitch on its part but instead must be the result of some changes to China’s censoring system, called the Great Firewall.
What this really points to is some serious hypersensitivity over Google's relationship with the Chinese government and their prospects for working unfettered with the largest group of Internet users in the world. The stakes, at least as seen by many investors, are extremely high and the media frenzy over the conflicting reports out of Google and China only reinforce one thing: Anything Google does in China will be fraught with pain.
Being an international business superpower like Google isn't supposed to be easy. You don't rake in billions upon billions of dollars by sitting on the beach sipping rum drinks. However, is it a good sign that every time a Chinese Googlers hiccup, Google News is dominated by countless reports of falling skies? Obviously, the answer is no.
I've argued before that Google's stability and enterprise credibility with their core market (western consumers and enterprises) would best served by exiting China until the political climate changes. Obviously, the monetary incentives to stay in China are significant, but one has to wonder how much damage will be done until 2012 when Google's Chinese operating license expires again. How many more attacks, blockages, media frenzies, and bits of insanity will Google (and its investors and users) endure as it struggles to function autonomously in a market that those same investors largely don't want it to leave?
I don't have any real stake in Google except as a user of its consumer and Apps products, including Android. However, I have to wonder what price the company will end up paying to continue its painful operations in China.