Sundar Pichai

Tech companies have increasingly sought ways to break into the Chinese market, where economic riches await. However, for the most part efforts to do that are a mixed bag. That is certainly the case for Google, where the company’s Android mobile OS has been successful, but Google Search efforts have failed to gain traction.

One problem with implementing Google Search in China is the country’s strict regulatory rules. Basically, the government wants a lot of control and limits exactly what Google would be able to show.

Mountain View appeared to be nearing a search roll out in China through a development codenames Project Dragonfly. However, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has now said Project Dragonfly was nothing more than an in-house “experiment”.

Pichai suggests the project was never supposed to reach a general release, seemingly killing Project Dragonfly in the process. Interestingly, recent reports have suggested Google was nearing releasing the search function for China.

Again, China is notable for having extremely touch online censorship. Major companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google are banned in the country. Microsoft has skirted the problem by working with Chinese regulators on special versions of Windows 10.

Google Search operated in China at one point, but the service was shuttered in 2010. Project Dragonfly was mooted as a version of search that complied with China’s laws. It was widely believed the service would launch.

Criticism

So, what happened? Perhaps the project failed to please to please Chinese regulators and Pichai is saving face by saying the project was just an experiment. It is also worth noting Google received criticism for the project, including from its own employees who were concerned by a China-specific search engine.

“We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building,” employees said.