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Project Dragonfly

By the FAST team

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Google exited China in 2010 because it said it no longer wanted to offer a censored experience on Google.cn (Forbes says it was also because Google was behind Baidu in the market, with only a 31% market share compared to Baidu’s 67%).

Now rumours are circulating that Google is ready to re-enter the Chinese market – with a project codenamed “Dragonfly”.

Details and Implications:

Google’s possible decision to get back into the Chinese market, which was first broken by news website The Intercept, has been met with a backlash from human rights groups as it appears that Google is going back on its stance over censorship.

Reports suggest that Google’s new service will automatically identify and filter websites blocked by the Chinese government’s firewall and that when a person carries out a search, banned websites will be removed from the first page of results and it will blacklist sensitive queries – showing no results at all when people enter certain search terms.

However, the lure of the Chinese market and its huge user base may have proved the winner in this moral battle – latest statistics put the online Chinese population at 772m (China Internet Network Information Centre 2017) with 753m of those using a mobile to access the internet.

Google already offers China’s online users some its services including Google Translate and Files Go – and it also has offices in the country but search email and its Google Play Store are all currently not available inside China

From a business growth perspective, the ability for Google to access the Chinese online has huge potential. Revenue for Baidu’s ad product in Q2 was $3.1bn and even a small portion of that incremental revenue from China would be a welcome addition to the Google balance sheet.

From an advertiser point of view, having the ability to access an AI-powered search engine and the online Chinese audience through Google Ads platform is a tantalising prospect if indeed Google does decide to launch search services inside China once more.


At the time of writing there has been no confirmation of the stories from Google, so this may be pure speculation or Google testing the water. However, if Google is looking at expanding market share into China – after making such a big deal about the reason it was exiting 8 years ago – then it will be very interesting to see how it fairs against Chinese existing search services led by Baidu.

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