Google Translate pulled from China, ending firm’s return to mainland

Over the weekend, Google suspended its translation service in mainland China, ending another attempt by the US tech company to return to the Chinese market amid Beijing’s push to more tightly control the Internet of the country.

Users in mainland China trying to access Google Translate in China were shown a static image of a generic Google search bar and a link to the company’s domain in Hong Kong. (Google in Hong Kong is uncensored and blocked for users in mainland China.)

The sudden suspension put some Chinese apps, which relied on Google for translation, at risk, as users reportedly reported problems with programs such as document reader KOReader. TechCrunchwho first reported the suspension.

A Google spokesperson said the fortune that the company had “discontinued Google Translate in mainland China due to low usage.”

Google Translate’s China service received 53.5 million hits from desktop and mobile users combined in August, according to the South China Morning Post, citing data from web analytics platform Similarweb. Google Translate as a whole received 719 million hits during the same period outside of China, according to data from Similarweb.

Google introduced a Chinese version of the Google Translate mobile app as a foray into the Chinese market in 2017, bringing in Chinese-American rapper MC Jin to advertise the service to Chinese users. Users in China could download the app without using a virtual private network to circumvent the country’s internet controls. At the time, Google said it hoped the service would help mainland Chinese “discover a world without language barriers.”

Google originally offered a censored version of Google Search to users in mainland China in 2006, but faced strong competition from local competitors such as Baidu.

In 2010, Google said it would redirect users from mainland China to its (uncensored) Hong Kong search engine. The decision to offer uncensored search followed a hacking of Google and other US tech companies by actors allegedly connected to the Chinese government. Beijing blocked Google Search in China and has continued to block other Google services like Gmail in the years since.

Google reportedly considered bringing a censored search product back to China in 2018 through a project called Dragonfly. The interception. Protests from Google employees eventually scuttled the project.

Google maintains an office in China to support developers and help Chinese companies run Google ads overseas.

Several Western tech companies, including Amazon, Airbnb and Yahoo, have shut down services in China over the past year. Others have altered their offerings to comply with new Internet regulations in China. Microsoft’s LinkedIn platform, for example, removed the social media channel from its China platform last year, citing “increased compliance requirements.”

Even exercising is not safe. Nike discontinued its popular Run Club app for Chinese users earlier this year.

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