It's no secret that China is tremendously strict when it comes to third-party companies, especially ones from America such as Facebook and Google, entering its shore. Both those aforementioned tech firms haven't had much luck in that department — Facebook is still banned in the country as our Google services — but at least one of them has found a way inside.
Google Finds A Way Inside China, Again
After eight years of absence, Google Maps is officially returning to China, or at least a China-specific version of the software.
As Nikkei reports, Google has released an iteration of Maps that's specifically optimized for the country. It includes a website, plus an app for iPhone and several other Apple devices. Whether there's also an Android version remains unclear, though. Google could simply make that available as a direct download from its site, as it did with its Google Translate app in March 2017.
According to Initial impressions of the Maps app for China, it seems Google partnered with Alibaba-owned AutoNavi to integrate map data, likely because China's geographical data is restricted. Special authorization from the right people are needed in order to access it. As for the navigation part of the app, Google Maps launches a third-party app from the same company.
Google's China Inroads
The release of the app comes after Google joined an investment in Chinese livestreaming mobile game Chushou earlier this month, as the new company seeks new ways to enter China, where its search engine is prohibited.
Google pulled Maps from China back in 2010, along with many of its services because it refused to self-censor its search results to accommodate China's rules and regulations for the internet. Since then, much like most other third-party companies, it has maintained a very diminished presence in the country, which is the world's biggest smartphone market.
Google launched an artificial intelligence center in Beijing this past December, another successful inroad for Google in the country. It marked the first machine learning research facility in Asia amid the company's search for local AI talent.
Nikkei notes the China seems interested in developing AI. Google is a major player in that department — many of its services, in fact, are powered by machine learning and AI. It also boasts TensorFlow, a machine learning library already used by many professionals in the field.
To rationalize that Google widening its presence in the country will lead to re-enabling its search engine, there is quite a stretch, as the company still has many hurdles to go through to get to that point. China, for instance, is the biggest challenge here, or more specifically, its attitude toward a free and open internet.