Isaac Mao, a prominent Chinese blogger, VC and friend, has posted An Open Letter to Google Founders— to save Google in China and save Internet in China.
One of the first paragraphs explains the situation as he sees it:
During the National Day holiday week in 2002, when Google.com was blocked in China for the first time, Chinese Google users made an online protest spontaneously. They appealed to free the purer search engine wave by wave. Its seemed its also the first time grassroots power was demonstrated in China on Internet. You can imagine how eager they are to have a complete Internet instead of a shrinked one. At last, people won, Google backed. However, after 4 years, we started to question whether we should continue to support Google. Many users here were disappointed when they found Google.cn filtered many keywords. The compromise remarks by you in Davos made us more frustrated. Seems you are adopting self-censorship which hurts those loyal users a lot which also devalue your motto of “non-evil”.
Google is ever regarded not only a leading Internet business, but a hope for many people around the world to open their thinking. Many bloggers in China still believes that in their everyday writings. We guess you were misled by incomplete information on how censorship is good to Chinese people. The fact is Google in the 130M-Internet-Users country is losing loyal users with loosing your principles. We understand its tough to anyone to make decisions. But it high time to change it back to the right track. Here we would like to propose 3 ideas to Google for its China strategy in a long term run, to survive, and live better:
The letter ends with the three ideas for Google in China:
- Invest in the Chinese Internet economy via a VC fund
- Assist in the development of anti-censorship tools
- Promote the Adsense economy to benefit content publishers
China will plague US internet companies until they are able to freely serve content in an unrestricted manner. The market is to big to ignore, but the government will shut them off if they do not play by their rules. This situation applies to all of the big search companies: Microsoft, Google and Yahoo!
Isaac’s letter suggests an interesting plan to Google. Invest in the internet economy while at the same writing or supporting software to free users to get uncensored information. I wonder how the Chinese government would handle that. They like foreign investment, but would they really tolerate it if it came with tools that route around the Great Fire Wall attached?
Isaac is a gutsy fellow. His email sig has a link to the EFF project Tor, an internet anonymizer. Isaac invests in companies that enable secure communication between social networks in China. I wonder if his plan would work. I think that investing in the Chinese internet economy would be very beneficial to Google and China; enough investment in that may make the Adsense economy a possibility and enable content publishers to make money. Anti-censorship software would be beneficial to all, but unless it is incredibly simple and easy to use it realistically would not affect the majority of Chinese internet users.