Hitting the Great Wall
The concept that the web will allow commerce without borders took a painful hit on Tuesday when Google announced that a sophisticated attack originating within China had struck their infrastructure in December. The target seemed to be the personal (Gmail) accounts of human rights activists and led Google to decide that they would end censorship practices required by Chinese law. Details later emerged showing that several other companies doing business with China were also attacked and the blog Ars Technica documented a long history of similar cyber attacks.
China responded as expected, creating serious doubt about the future of Google.cn. While the reaction from bloggers included widespread admiration for Google's stance there was also a fair bit of cynicism regarding their motives. The Inquisitr made the case that Google's primary concern is the perceived safety of cloud computing. Nicholas Carr used the New Republic as well as his own blog to explain the importance of cloud computing to Google's business model and the danger that attacks on Google's servers presents. Other voices made the case that Google was just retreating from a losing battle with Baidu. All Things Digital argued that there were indeed cumulative factors leading to a proper stand by Google.
The consensus regarding the future is that Google.cn will disappear, at least for awhile. The blogs Imagethief and Rconversation described China's situation as unacceptable even to moderate voices. Hopes for moderation came from such writers as Henry Blodget who described a scenario where both sides could declare victory. Jonathan Zittrain saw a possible test case of Google.cn being shut down but something like cn.google.com could still be used by Google to fight censorship on its own terms. The first battle between a 'data state' and a world superpower might actually be winnable by Google. Conversation Marketing did some early handicapping and found some significant leverage, all on Google's side.