Finally! A new measure of clarity regarding Google’s intentions for its China-facing mapping product, ditu.google.cn. Both Reuters and Dow Jones report that Google has indeed acquiesced to new tighter government regulations, applying through the company’s joint venture, Beijing Guxiang information Technology, for the mapping license it needs to legally continue to run ditu.google.cn. As recently as a few days ago, it wasn’t clear whether Google would engage in this new more strenuous application process.
Unlike Google’s Chinese search product, which is now run out of Hong Kong, the mapping product continues to be served out of China, and is subject to local laws dictating borders, place names, user-generated content and censorship.
I was rather hoping Google would take the high road regarding its maps in China, but that now seems unlikely. It is of course still possible that the application is denied, for example if Google continues to vocally blame China for cyber-attacks against its Gmail service and outages of its services on the mainland.
(Fact Check: Reuters gets this sentence exactly wrong:
Recently, requirements for a mapping license were relaxed to allow for foreign online mapping providers, such as Google, to engage in joint ventures to provide the service.
Actually, it used to be the case that no such license was needed. In May 2010 China’s State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping announced the requirement to apply for an online mapping license; it recently hardened the rule, announcing that foreign companies would not be eligible for such a license, except through a joint venture.)