For a brief spell last night, uncensored Google search was alive and kicking within China’s borders. For roughly 105 mins, according to the South China Morning Post, residents inside the People’s Republic had free, unrestricted use of Google’s popular search domain.
China’s government level IP-blocking is infamous. Dubbed the ‘Great Firewall’, its protection net blocks access to many of the most-used western web properties. That includes virtually all of Google’s services like search, Play Store, YouTube and Gmail as well as Facebook, among many others.
While we don’t know for sure what caused the firewall to stop blocking google.com for that time, the SCMP reports that it coincided with a series of new IP servers being launched by Google in a number of Asian markets. For whatever reason, the launch of these new IP services somehow confused China’s censorship tools, basically causing the firewall to fail at recognizing links Google’s blocked search service.
Although short-lived, internet users were excited. Some even thought China was moving towards free speech and unrestricted internet access for all:
“I even called many friends to have a try themselves,” said Li Yue, a Shenzhen-based IT engineer. “I felt so happy and excited, although I was not sure if it was a temporary glitch or a change of policy.
“At that moment, I even believed that Google was unblocked and that free speech had come back to [mainland] China again.”
As you can imagine, it didn’t take long for China to clamp down on these new IPs and patch up the cracks in its ‘Great Firewall’. In little under two hours, following multiple posts on Chinese social networks, the block on Google Search was successfully reapplied.
While its block on Google is far reaching, there has been speculation in recent times that some of its services might be allowed in China in the near future. Its partnership with Huawei for the latest Nexus smartphone was seen as a key deal in bringing the Play Store to China residents. A Lenovo chief even stated recently that the Play Store would land in China within the next year.
It’s unlikely Google Search will ever have the same freedom within Chinese borders, but getting Play Store live would certainly be a good place to start.