【英语中国】中国防火长城让谷歌一头雾水

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所属分类:双语中国

2010-7-31 02:53

小艾摘要: How sophisticated is China's Great Firewall? Well, it sure seems to have Google at sixes and sevens.Widely seen as one of the world's brainiest companies, famous for using complicated mathematical a ...
How sophisticated is China's Great Firewall? Well, it sure seems to have Google at sixes and sevens.

Widely seen as one of the world's brainiest companies, famous for using complicated mathematical and computer-programming questions to test prospective employees, the U.S. Internet giant for the second time in four months found itself Friday in an embarrassing state of confusion about the state of its Chinese operations.

Sometime early Friday morning China time (Thursday afternoon in California), Google's 'Mainland China service availability' page started tagging its Web search category with a red 'X' that stands for 'Fully Blocked' (in fact, 'Fully Blocked' means 67% to 100% blocked, Google says). Google set up the service-availability page to enable the public to keep track of its China operations in March, when it halted self-censorship of its Chinese search engine and moved it to Hong Kong to avoid Beijing's censorship laws.

The change prompted a flurry of news reports in the U.S. that Google's search service was fully blocked in China for the first time since the March move-news that revived concerns about Google's status in China, which had been somewhat allayed after it won renewal of its license last month.

But when Google users in China tried testing the search service, they found no evidence of blockage.

Two hours after the initial reports surfaced, Google clarified. 'Because of the way we measure accessibility in China, it's possible that our machines could overestimate the level of blockage,' a Google spokesman said. 'That seems to be what happened last night when there was a relatively small blockage. It appears now that users in China are accessing our properties normally.' The company also noted that the service availability website is 'not a real-time tool.' By midday in China, the site had been revised to show Web search in China only 'Partially Blocked' (i.e. 10% to 66%).

The incident was a sort of funhouse-mirror image of an equally confusing episode in late March, when Google search sites in China did experience an abrupt and sweeping outage. In that case, Google first blamed itself, citing a technical change, then faulted the Great Firewall-just as service returned to normal.

The point here isn't just to laugh at the befuddlement of geeks. After all, experts have long noted that China's system of Internet monitoring and filtering is perhaps the most extensive, sophisticated and secretive in the world-designed to be obscure and confusing, so that it is less obvious and harder to circumvent.

But these incidents do point up a larger problem for Google in China, one that persists even after its license renewal. Providing stable service for Chinese users was a big reason Google started its Google.cn site in 2006, after years of intermittent disruptions. Now that it has effectively dismantled that service, renewed disruptions-or even reports of disruptions that turn out not to have happened-may create a perception among Chinese users Google's service is unreliable, and prompt some to decide its not worth trying.

Already, in the second quarter, Google's share of China's search market fell about six percentage points to 24%, while Chinese rival Baidu's rose by the same margin to 70%.

Beijing may not need to cancel Google's license. Death by a thousand disruptions could be just as effective.

中国的防火长城究竟有多复杂呢?谷歌(Google)在它面前好像也被搞得一头雾水。

美国网络巨擘谷歌被普遍视为全球最聪明的公司之一,以使用复杂的数学和计算机编程题目考验准员工而闻名,但本周五,这家公司在四个月内第二次搞不懂自己中国业务的状态,实在是尴尬。

北京时间周五清晨的某个时候(加利福尼亚当地时间周四下午),谷歌显示其中国大陆服务状态的页面开始将网页搜索这一类标为红叉,意思是被“完全屏蔽”(事实上按谷歌的说法,“完全屏蔽”指被屏蔽67%到100%)。谷歌在3月份设立了这个页面,让公众能够随时了解其中国业务的状态。当时它不再对中文搜索引擎进行自我审查,并将其转到香港,以规避北京的审查法律。

“红叉”在美国引发大量新闻报道,说谷歌的搜索服务自其3月份避走香港以来第一次在中国被完全屏蔽。谷歌的中国牌照在上个月获得续期,已经或多或少地缓和了人们对其在华处境的担忧,而这些报道使得这种担忧再度燃起。

但当中国国内的谷歌用户对其搜索服务进行测试的时候,却没有找到任何被屏蔽的证据。

最初的报道出现两小时过后,谷歌进行了澄清。谷歌一位发言人说,由于我们衡量在华可用性的方式问题,我们的机器高估被屏蔽的程度是有可能的;这似乎就是昨晚发生的情况,当时被屏蔽程度相对较低;现在,中国国内的用户好像正在正常地使用我们的服务。该公司还提出,显示服务可用性的那个页面“不是一个实时工具”。到中国周五的中午时分,页面已被修改,显示中国国内的网页搜索服务只是被“部分屏蔽”(即被屏蔽10%到66%)。

这件事情让人想起3月底一段同样让人不解的故事。当时,谷歌的搜索服务在中国确实遭遇了一次突然而全面的中断。那次谷歌先是归咎于自身,说是缘于一次技术更新,过后等服务回归正常时又将其归因于防火长城。

说这个不是为了嘲笑计算机天才也会犯晕。毕竟,长期以来专家就曾指出,中国的互联网监测与过滤系统可能是世界上最全面、最复杂、最隐秘的,其目的就是为了显得不可琢磨和令人困惑,这样它就不那么明显,更难翻越。

但这些事情确实突出了谷歌在中国一个更大的问题,即使是在执照续期过后,这个问题仍然存在。谷歌在其服务多年遭到间歇性中断后于2006年启动Google.cn,一个重要原因就是要为中国用户提供稳定的服务。在事实上已经取消Google.cn的情况下,新出现的中断──甚至是有关后来证实不存在的中断的报告──可能会让中国用户觉得谷歌的服务不可靠,并让一些人觉得不值得去尝试使用。

谷歌在中国搜索市场中的份额,二季度已经下滑大约六个百分点至24%,而竞争对手百度的份额则上升六个百分点,达到70%。

北京或许不需要取消谷歌的执照。让它中断一千次,可能会一样有用。

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