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by Stephen Logan on 19th January 2010
Following Google’s very public fallout with the Chinese Government they remain surprisingly unscathed. Their rivals on the other hand are enduring travails aplenty in the aftermath; so who exactly has come out of this scandal worse?
Whilst Google are reporting ‘business as usual’ behind the bamboo curtain, ascertaining how true that actually is can’t be done without delving deep into the realms of speculation. What we do know though is that Yahoo! have received a severe reprimand from their own Chinese counterparts, Alibaba, for seemingly siding with their search rivals in the Chinese hacking scandal. Likewise, Microsoft have been singled out for blame due to a flaw within their Internet Explorer browser that allowed Google to be hacked; an issue that has subsequently led the French and German Governments to suggest that their respective citizens abandon the Internet browser in favour of the various alternatives available.
So whilst Google have been at loggerheads with the Chinese authorities and threatening a withdrawal from the country [see: Google Threatens China Walkout], their search rivals have done little to steal the initiative. Of course it is all hypothetical at this point, but Yahoo! appear to have dug themselves a bit of a hole by siding with Google – not least with the aforementioned Alibaba – and Microsoft could lose more ground with their browser’s blacklisting in Europe.
Internet Explorer Falls Foul of European Governments
The relevance of Governments, particularly in leading economic nations such as Germany and France, encouraging citizens to abandon Internet Explorer (at least until the flaw is fixed) goes far beyond the software itself. With IE the default page is always MSN related and the search is Bing; therefore Microsoft are able to garner a fair amount of traffic through people simply not changing their habits or default settings.
If there were to be a shift towards Firefox and, perhaps more pertinently, Google Chrome, you could find that Bing’s global wingspan is clipped. Both browsers carry Google as their default search engine, meaning that anybody wanting to quickly look for something online would have to actively navigate to Bing and search – bi-passing the better known and more popular Google engine on the way through.
Internet Explorer has been under fire for some time before this latest high profile breach. Concerns about security levels have precipitated its slump in popularity. For Bing and Yahoo to try to catch Google they have to have as much leverage as possible from the browsers and at the moment, that just isn’t happening.
Google’s Great PR Coup
Few would argue – apart from the most hardened economists – that Google made the right decision in confronting the authorities following the theft of information from their customer data. But as we speak, they continue to operate in China, having had a healthy dose of publicity in the process, and may continue to do so.
If this was planned, it would have been one of the best pieces of business orchestration ever seen. Not only have Google managed to pull a massive white PR rabbit out of the hat, but their rivals have been distracted by problems of their own. Yahoo! acted admirably, but arguably have more to lose in China so their words might prove inadvisable. Microsoft now have to patch up their Internet Explorer browser before this Franco-German alliance crosses any more borders.
Of course, it is all just hearsay, like any good conspiracy. But could anybody really contrive such a complex set of circumstances? If anyone can, Google can. It’s certainly a thick plot, but it is one that continues to thicken at apace.
What the long-term impact of all this Asian mismanagement will be is anybody’s guess. Who do you think will come out of this best, or the least worst at any rate? Is the YaBing partnership potentially weaker because of this incident? Is this just great PR for Google, the global brand?