Google to close shopping service in mainland China

Google Inc, the US search giant, said on Wednesday it will shut down its shopping search service in China, marking the second time it has closed a service in the world's most populous Internet market in the past three months.

In a statement, Google said the shopping service "was not providing businesses with the level of impact we had hoped".

The company cited the same reason in September when it decided to shut down its music search service in China.

Google has seen its market share in China decrease since it shut down its search engine in the mainland in 2010. Analysts said that steady loss may lead the company to reduce its product offerings in the country even further.

Google's market share in China peaked in the fourth quarter of 2009, when the company had 35.9 percent of the Chinese search market, according to the domestic research company Analysys International.

The share began declining after that, shrinking especially quickly in 2010, after Google got into a spat with the Chinese government. In response, the company decided to shut down the search engine it had run from the Chinese mainland and redirect users to a Hong Kong-based search site.

Google had a 15.7 percent share of the Chinese market in the second quarter, a period in which Baidu's share was 78.6 percent, Analysys International said.

"The closing of the shopping search service is a sequel to Google's 'retreat' from the mainland in 2010," said Xie Wen, a Chinese IT expert and former president of Yahoo China.

Google's lack of operations on the mainland will restrain its attempts to provide services that are tailored to users there, he said.

Without the shopping search service, the company's mainland offerings will still include a translation service and a service that aggregates group-buying websites.

"Google, being an international company, tends to provide services that work in different countries," said Hong Bo, a Beijing-based IT critic who founded the consultancy company IT5G.

"If a product fails in one country, (Google) will probably shut it down."

The US company may also decide to shut down services that don't perform as they are supposed to, he added.

Even though Google is steadily ceding its market share to Chinese latecomers - Internet companies such as Sohu.com Inc and Qihoo 360 Technology Co Ltd - Hong said the company still enjoys certain advantages over its rivals. As an example, he noted that Google runs an advertising service used to make foreign customers aware of Chinese exporters.

Google, for its part, said it will concentrate on "in-app mobile advertising with AdMob, mobile and desktop display, and export-oriented search advertising", according to its statement.

John Liu, corporate vice-president of Google, said in an interview earlier this year that the mobile advertising business in China "is growing the fastest".

In China, the biggest competitors for Google's shopping search service were companies such as the e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, which operates the shopping search engine Etao.com.

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