Google Inc. confirmed Wednesday that a search engine feature had been partially blocked in China on the same day that its license to offer Internet services there was due to expire.
At issue is the "suggest" tool, which automatically recommends search queries based on the first few letters a user types. Suggestion technologies are popular in China. The blockage was noted on a Google Web page that tracks the availability of its services in mainland China.
Other services remain "fully or mostly accessible," Google said.
A Google representative said that "it appears that search queries produced by Google Suggest are being blocked for mainland users in China. Normal searches that do not use query suggestions are unaffected."
Google declined to speculate on why the service was partially blocked. This isn't the first time a Google feature has been blocked. Service statuses often fluctuate in China.
The company is waiting for a decision from the Chinese government on whether it can continue to offer Internet services in the country.
Google's standoff over online censorship with Chinese officials was back in the news this week. The company disclosed that officials objected to its strategy of automatically redirecting users to an uncensored site in Hong Kong, calling it "unacceptable."
The Chinese government has threatened to revoke Google's license, Google said. In an effort to appease Chinese officials, Google began directing users in mainland China to a page with a link to the Hong Kong search engine.