Let me first be clear that I am a fan of Google. I use their web-based email, their search client is my first choice for looking for things, and I am using Google Apps on several websites that I have a hand in. As a technologist working in academics with disabled students, I appreciate Google’s work towards universal access, and as a regular user, I appreciate how effective their search engine is, and generally how careful they are about rolling out new products and services (except for that whole Google Buzz debacle – we won’t go there). So when I heard that they once again are refusing to buckle to the short-sighted demands of China, I was quick to offer a toast.
Now GoDaddy is also pulling out of China, based on new rules put forth by the China Internet Network Information Center, the Chinese government agency that regulates Internet-based activity. Anyone registering a .cn domain in China must not only provide the usual information (name, address, phone) but must also provide a headshot, full identification, and signed registration forms. GoDaddy balked, and so did Network Solutions, who have also stopped registering .cn domain names. Both companies have stated that they believe the information the Chinese government is requesting is intrusive.
I applaud GoDaddy and Network Solutions for making this decision. I am sure now that some of the larger interests are taking this lead, others will likely follow. If China cannot change from the inside, then they will be forced to change from the outside. China wants to be a global economic and manufacturing power, and that doesn’t happen by removing freedoms from its people. Innovation does not happen in closed environments.
These are small steps, I know. But these are big names, and the rest of the world will likely take note. Yahoo and Microsoft, in my opinion, have made a huge mistake in letting the Chinese government de-tooth them in China. We’ll see if that changes in the near future, now that Google has taken a stand.