Google has discontinued its China-based Google Translate app and site, translate.google.cn, allegedly because no one was using it.
“We have discontinued Google Translate in mainland China due to low usage,” a Google spokesperson told The Register.
The development comes as little surprise since Gmail, Chrome, and Google-based search has long been unavailable in mainland China. Some have accessed the services by using virtual private networks (VPNs) that mask the user’s location. Services have remained available in Hong Kong.
Google officially entered the Chinese market in 2006, but its relationship with Beijing was clouded by policies and views on censorship. Although at times Google acquiesced to Beijing’s censor demands, at other times it turned to Hong Kong as an intermediary of sorts – rerouting search queries through the city and special administrative region in attempts to neither have to confront nor comply with Beijing itself.
In January 2010, Google announced it would no longer censor content in China at the request of Beijing, a move that sealed its departure. The company cited cyberattacks that sought to access the accounts of Chinese human rights activists. The overall threat, which targeted over 20 companies and not just Google, was named Project Aurora.
In 2011, Google said it wanted to re-enter China, but ultimately it was never able to recapture users in the country in thje same way.
Google’s market share in China plummeted from 2009 onward. According to one statistics and web traffic analysis company, market share in the Middle Kingdom fell to less than 4 percent in September 2022 from over 97 percent in early 2009.
As Google’s use in China declined, homegrown tech and search engine company Baidu saw its market share soar. That value ranged in 2022 from nearly 85 percent to 63 percent, averaging in the mid-70s.
At this point, it seems no one is optimistic Google will return given that the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, in which Chinese government leadership and party direction changes are announced, is less than two weeks away. It is highly unlikely the party will decide to turn toward US tech given the geopolitical environment between the countries.
But the withdrawal of mainland China’s Google Translate has created other problems. Sites that rely on it have suffered as have some apps. But these dependencies are just glitches that surely have a moderately easy fix, unlike Google’s absence in the Middle Kingdom. ®