Google and YouTube copies launch in China
Imitation search engine and video site emerge amid standoff between China and real Google over censorship
A computer display shows the Goojje and Youtubecn Web sites at an Internet cafe in Beijing, China. Photograph: Ng Han Guan/AP
Imitation websites of both Google and YouTube have emerged in China as the country faces off against the real Google over its local operations.
YouTubecn.com offers videos from the real YouTube, which is owned by Google and blocked in China. The Google imitation is called Goojje and includes a plea for the US-based company not to leave China, after it threatened this month to do so in a dispute over web censorship and cyber attacks.
The separate projects went up within a day of each other in mid-January, just after Google's threat to leave.
"What's the reaction in these cases? In the US, you have a lawsuit. In China, it's just 'eh', unless they're really doing damage to the brand," said TR Harrington, CEO of China-based Darwin Marketing.
Both knockoff sites were still working today. It wasn't clear what Chinese authorities would do about them, if anything.
China's National Copyright Administration has been cracking down on illegally-run websites and this month issued a code of ethics, but no statement was posted on its site today about the new imitations.
Google had little comment. "The only comment I can give you right now is just to confirm that we're not affiliated," spokeswoman Jessica Powell said in an email.
This is the first time such prominent sites have been copied in this way, said Xiao Qiang, director of the Berkeley China Internet Project at the University of California-Berkeley.
Xiao said the sites risked bumping into problems on both sides of the Google-China standoff: they infringe on Google's intellectual property while giving access to sensitive topics in tightly controlled China. "I cannot see how these sites can survive very long without facing these two issues."
"I did this as a public service," the founder of the YouTube knockoff, Li Senhe, told the Christian Science Monitor. Videos on social unrest in China can be found on the site, which is in English.
The real YouTube was blocked in China in 2008 after videos related to Tibetan unrest were posted there.
Some Chinese quickly welcomed the fake YouTube site. "I don't know if it will last long," wrote blogger Jia Zhengjing, who has written posts against censorship.
The other site, Goojje, is a working search engine that looks like a combination of Google and its top China competitor, Baidu.
"Exactly speaking, Goojje is not a search engine but a platform for finding friends," one of its founders, Xiao Xuan, told the Henan Business Daily on Wednesday.
Xiao said the site did not have as much sensitive material as the copycat YouTube site and was probably based on the Google China site instead of the version used in the US. "It's quite clean by Chinese censorship standards," he said.
He guessed that based on the amount of time and work needed to build such a site on top of Google's data, Goojje had already been ready before the Google-China showdown started – and that the founder or founders chose the name "Goojje" to get attention.
The names are a play on words. The second syllable of "Google" sounds like "older brother," and the second syllable of "Goojje" sounds like "older sister" in Mandarin.
Copycat companies are nothing new in China. Baidu, China's most popular search engine, is also based on Google, Xiao said. He said if the trend continued the next site to be copied would probably be Facebook – which is also blocked in China.
Thursday 28 January 2010 15.32 GMT
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010