Google-ch (www.google-ch.com) went live in China recently, raising public speculations of a possible Google comeback in China. But a closer look into the site shows that it is founded by a group of Google fans and not affiliated to the US company in any way.
The site performs simple search functions and offers a directory service that guides people to Chinese websites and chat boards. They claim that search results on the site are filtered to comply with local regulations and no filter keywords are disclosed. But the team pledged that they would not adjust Google’s search results or add floating adds, and the service is open to the users free of charge.
The site was not accessible when TechNode tried to test it, possibly due to the heavy traffic. Our tests were done inside and outside China. An industry insider explains to local media that “running a Google Chinese site needs lots of servers to support and that’s not something that can be managed by a fan team.”
Google-ch is not the first of Google knockoff sites in China. Such sites could be dated years back when Google left China. “Goojje”, a site made in response after Google threatens to pull out of China back then, accumulated over 40,000 visitors in two weeks after it launched in Jan. 2010.
In addition to the hypes, there are possible risks in visiting such knockoff sites. “We are now educated to use all these techniques (OpenDNS, spam filters, extended validation certificate) to prevent people visiting knockoff sites from DNS hijack, links in spam mail and so on. How can you tell the search results is not altered from the original site? What if they hook any malware/coin-mining script to the site? What if they collect your information for any bad purpose?” Wang Boyuan, editor-in-chief of TechCrunch.cn told TechNode.
The news got wide attention since the US search giant has gotten more proactive in pushing its China comeback. Yao Xinyu, a founding partner of Seven Seas Partners and former China Chief Strategy Officer at Microsoft 365, joined Google China last week. Over the past few months, Google got official WeChat account for TensorFlow and started promoting its translation app on WeChat. In addition, mobile apps with map functions based on Google data have come accessible in China.