SAN FRANCISCO — Online search engine leader Google Inc. has agreed to censor its results in China, adhering to the country's free-speech restrictions in return for better access to the Internet's fastest-growing market.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company planned to roll out a version of its search engine bearing China's Web suffix, .cn, today. A Chinese-language version of Google's search engine has previously been available through the company's dot-com address in the United States.
By creating a unique address for China, Google hopes to make its search engine more widely available and easier to use in the world's most populous country.
Because of government barriers set up to suppress information, Google's China users previously have been blocked from using the search engine or encountered lengthy delays in response time.
The service troubles have frustrated many Chinese users, hobbling Google's efforts to expand its market share in a country that is expected to emerge as an Internet gold mine over the next decade.
China already has more than 100 million Web surfers and the audience is expected to swell substantially -- an alluring prospect for Google as it tries to boost its already rapidly rising profit.
Baidu.com Inc., a Beijing-based company in which Google owns a 2.6% stake, runs China's most popular search engine. But a recent Keynote Systems Inc. survey of China's Internet preferences concluded that Baidu remained vulnerable to challenges from Google and Yahoo Inc.
To obtain the Chinese license, Google agreed to omit Web content that the country's government found objectionable.
Although China has loosened some of its controls in recent years, certain topics, such as Taiwan's independence and 1989's Tiananmen Square massacre, remain forbidden subjects.
Google executives characterized the censorship concessions in China as an excruciating decision for a company that had adopted "don't be evil" as a motto. But management believes it's a worthwhile sacrifice.
"We firmly believe, with our culture of innovation, Google can make meaningful and positive contributions to the already impressive pace of development in China," said Andrew McLaughlin, Google's senior policy counsel.
When Google censors results in China, it intends to post notifications alerting users that some content has been removed to comply with local laws. The company provides similar alerts in Germany and France when, to comply with national laws, it censors results to remove references to Nazi paraphernalia.