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What Google can deny China

Communist China has become so capitalist, on the ground, that its businesses can't accept the code sharing process American open source businesses have perfected in the last decade.

Special Report: Google-China

What are Google's weapons in its struggle with China?

Most people are focusing on its search results and other basic services. Despite the rising temperature Google still has one-third of the Chinese search market. Many Chinese academics, especially those fluent in English (and they have lots more than we have Chinese speakers) depend on Google.Com.

But I don't think these are Google's primary weapons. The two I look at most closely are:

  • Infrastructure
  • Open source process

Both could be overcome, but let's look at them more closely.

Infrastructure

As I have noted here many times Google's infrastructure is unique. It can deliver Internet "goods" for much less than any rival.

Google has developed many technologies in order to do this. It distributes the work of servers. It uses low-cost PCs as servers. It has software algorithms. It has dark fiber. It has many different server centers caching content to reduce how far queries must travel. It works hard to reduce its energy costs.

These advantages are definitive within the U.S. market. Microsoft can't compete with them. Neither can AT&T or Comcast. Neither, frankly, can China.

But it can overcome them, to an extent, with a brute-force approach. China's basic Internet infrastructure is now more advanced than ours, in most of the country. Its algorithms are adequate. Caching, the use of low-cost PCs, and energy awareness are ideas it can freely copy.

Open source process

I'm not talking here of code. Anyone can access code. Efforts by the U.S. government to restrict code access drew publicity, but I'll bet the targets of those blocks chuckled as they maneuvered around them.

I'm talking more here of the open source process, the casual, day-by-day sharing of tips, techniques, and help that let American companies like IBM extend the state of the art through Eclipse and share the cost of that with other firms.

Google is very good at this. China is not good at all.

It's not all down to government policy. The Chinese market economy is fiercely competitive, and companies are very protective of their tiny advantages. It will take years to convince most to throw software into a common pot as in the story Stone Soup.

Not even all ZDNet readers believe the open source process works, or trust it implicitly. Neither do all U.S. companies. Efforts to open up those software repositories through things like CodePlex will take years to bear fruit.

By most accounts China is far, far behind America in its use of the open source process. Enormous amounts of education will be required for it to adapt. Google is now denying it much of that education, and putting a cloud over all who seek it, especially as they cross borders with their browsers seeking lessons.

Ironic, isn't it? Communist China has become so capitalist, on the ground, that its businesses can't accept the code sharing process American open source businesses have perfected in the last decade.

That should give the giant Mao statue directing traffic in Chengdu a headache. Start it flipping around on its axis. (I took the picture above last year, and isolated the picture with The Gimp this morning.) Drive safely, my friends.