CRUNCH talks took place yesterday between Google and Chinese authorities after the search-engine giant threatened to quit the country.
In a direct challenge to the Chinese government, Google said it would pull out of the country unless it’s allowed to offer “unfiltered” internet searches to web users.
Google blamed a series of cyber-attacks, possibly state sponsored, and increasing pressure to censor its content for its dramatic announcement.
The two sides have not ruled out coming to a compromise that would see Google maintain its base in mainland China but sources close to the company say this looks unlikely.
And yesterday some Chinese had already begun to lay flowers outside Google’s offices.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has even weighed into the dispute, urging the Chinese to respond to Google’s hacking claims.
But Google’s decision to quit the country may not be just ethical. It has struggled to achieve the domination it has secured around the globe.
Of estimated global revenues of $22bn (£13.6bn), China accounted for a mere $342m. Its main rival Baidu report at least double that.
It also lags behind in market share, with only 35 per cent of Chinese using its search engine despite Google launching there five years ago.
Google is largely used by Chinese students and intellectuals and experts have calculated that, from a total internet marketplace of 350m users, it would struggle to attract more than a third.
The company places part of the blame on Chinese censorship, which has seen services such as its predictive search technology disabled.