April 12, 2006 3:39 pm

Google’s ‘old dog’ taught Chinese tricks

Google on Wednesday announced the adoption of a Chinese name, a move intended to help the US search company expand its presence in the world's second most populous internet market.

Eric Schmidt, chief executive, unveiled the new name at a ceremony in Beijing where he also defended Google's controversial decision to censor its new China-based search service to avoid angering Beijing.

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Google will now be known in Chinese as Gu Ge, which means "harvest song" and is a more melodious moniker than the unofficial alternatives currently used in China for the company.

Some Chinese media and internet users have in the past merely used Google's English name, while others have variously dubbed the company "Gougou" and "Gugou" - which mean "doggy" and "old hound".

The new name conveyed "the sense of a fruitful and productive search experience, in a poetic Chinese way", Google said.

Despite lacking a Chinese name, Google had established itself as a major provider of internet searches in China even before the launch in January of its locally-based service, google.cn.

Mr Schmidt yesterday reiterated his defence of Google's decision to restrict search results for sensitive topics such as human rights, political reform, Taiwan and Tibet.

Free speech advocates, media watchdogs, Tibet support groups and Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian have denounced Google for bowing to Beijing's propaganda tsars.

However, Mr Schmidt said Google was right to abide by the law and policies of countries in which it operated - and suggested its strategy should be seen as just part of a much wider US engagement with a rising China.

He stressed that Google was not operating any service in China that might require it to reveal users’ personal information to the government, a policy that contrasts sharply with that of Yahoo and Microsoft.

Google has been more open about its censorship than rivals by adding a notice to users whenever search results are excluded.

However, Mr Schmidt also said Google had no intention of trying to lobby Beijing to ease its restrictions on internet content.

“That would be arrogant for a newcomer, which is what Google is,” he said.

As well as expanding its local search service presence, Google has been aggressively recruiting local staff for a new research and development centre in China that Mr Schmidt said was on course to be its largest outside the US.

China now has more than 110m people online, making it the second most populous internet market after the US.

Google clearly still has work to do to ensure its new Chinese name is widely adopted. A Chinese-language search for “old hound” yesterday on the company’s own local service gave Google as the top result - but “harvest song” did not.

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