Google and China’s internet authority are locked in a war of words. In 2010, Google directed all of its Chinese traffic to the uncensored Hong Kong version of its search engine, a move that left the company vulnerable to being completely shut down in China. However, we have been hearing about Google’s plan to return to China in the near future. And guess what, Google is back with a localized version of Google Maps for China.
Although Google’s flagship search function is still inaccessible in China, a new version of Google Maps for China is available for desktop browsers, and on the App Store. Since China doesn’t have the Google Play Store, there’s no Android version for the new Google Maps.
Reports suggest that when users open Maps for directions, they are redirected to a Chinese map application run by AutoNavi, owned by Alibaba Group Holding, which provides the directions. The renewed availability of Google Maps could be a sign that the search giant and the Chinese government are mending their ways and settling on the common ground.
Google reportedly said that it has “not released anything new” in China, and has no plans to make an announcement. It added that Google Maps does have no official presence on Android or iOS app stores in the country.
According to Asian industry publication Nikkei, the settlement will help Google draw on AI experts in China, and could pave the way for more effective research and development. Partnering with Beijing would also make it easier to collect large amounts of data.
Back in December, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google said, “Many small and medium-sized businesses in China take advantage of Google to get their products to many other countries outside of China.” In Google’s absence, Chinese firms like Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu, and JD.com became powerful players in China. Google and its products can be accessed in China through Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).