We can be Heroes For ever and ever What d'you say ~David Bowie, Heroes Yesterday afternoon I read with some surprise that domain registrar Go Daddy was following Google out of China . It seems they had had quite enough of the Chinese government's restrictions, and like Google, decided to take their ball and go home. I tweeted with my friend and fellow journalist Alex Howard after seeing this, that maybe all western technology companies should leave China in one big show of force. Leave them there dangling on the edge of their economic expansion without computers, gadgets and networking.
But then as I lay in bed last night, I thought, maybe if just its two fellow technology powerhouses followed them out, it would lead the exodus. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not naive, and I don't think this would ever happen, but it's fun to imagine, these three rivals sticking together for once and telling the totalitarian regime where to stick it.
This Ain't No Movie
As fun as it sounds to picture Steve Ballmer being played by James Stewart (as in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington ) and Steve Jobs being played by Gary Cooper (as in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town ), this is reality, not a 1930s Frank Capra fantasy. These two gentlemen have 21st century companies to run and they are not likely to give up profits without pressure. In my view Google never wanted to leave China (and has probably left the door slightly ajar to return), but the Chinese government gave them little choice when it became apparent government agents were trying to hack into Google's Chinese servers . (Actually this does sound like a good film, doesn't it?)
Do The Right Thing
President Obama could use the bully pulpit of his presidency to pressure companies to follow Google, but I don't see him spending his precious political capital in this fashion. What does he have to gain by taking on China (especially when China owns so much US treasury paper )? In fact, in a New York Times' interview yesterday, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said that the US government has not gotten involved, and that negotiations are continuing (as I thought they would be). He was careful not to belittle the Chinese, but made it clear that current policy is not acceptable:
...But in matters of censorship, political speech and Internet communications, he said, there is a totalitarian mentality that controls policy. “Our objection is to those forces of totalitarianism,” he said.
Microsoft and Apple have to be paying attention to this, and it does make Google look like a strong and principled organization. Whether that's true or not, it has to be at least the public perception of the situation on the outside looking in.They Won't Be There
Of course, Microsoft and Apple have nothing to gain by following Google, and like Google, much to lose. If anything, Microsoft especially could push Google aside and take over some of that lucrative search engine traffic in China (a more expected counter move, than joining Google). In the mean time Google continues to pay a price for its actions. PaidContent.org reports just this morning that under pressure from the government, several Chinese companies are suddenly pulling out of deals with the search giant.
There won't be any Capra-like shows of solidarity in this movie. In the end, some strays like Go Daddy might make the move for their own reasons, but Google is probably on its own as it fights China out of Dodge. Still, it's a nice thought, isn't it?
Photo credit: James Stewart from the trailer for the film ''Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Public Domain Image on WikiMedia Commons .