The Chinese government seems to be working to further strengthen its notorious Great Firewall of censorship. Or at least that’s the growing suspicion behind the still unexplained outage of Microsoft Bing in China. While it’s not really unusual for the restrictive regime to block access to Internet services to “protect” its citizens from outside corruption, Bing’s exit could mean that Chinese users will no longer have access to non-Chinese search engines completely.
Supporting Internet services in China can be very tricky. The country’s government is known for demanding that service providers censor certain content that they have deemed to be subversive or encouraging such thoughts. Some have caved in some cases, others have not.
Google withdrew its search engine back in 2010, leaving Microsoft as the last man standing, at least in terms of popular search engines run by foreign companies. Now that may no longer be true, making Microsoft the most recent US company to be given that treatment by the Chinese government.
At the moment, the matter hasn’t been confirmed yet. Microsoft says it’s investigating reports of users being unable to access Bing’s China site at cn.bing.com. According to the Financial Times’ sources, however, the Chinese government gave the order to block access to the site by making sure Chinese nameservers that act as address books won’t be able to match that URL with the actual IP address of Bing in China.
In terms of market share, that might not matter much as Bing reportedly only enjoys 2% of that Chinese market. Baidu remains the search engine of choice but, as a Chinese company, is more directly subject to the demands of the Chinese government.
UPDATE: Microsoft has confirmed in a statement that the service is indeed inaccessible in China. It made no mention of the cause though it is “exploring its next steps”, hinting that it could have indeed been at the behest of the Chinese government.