China (un)Blocks Android Market [Update]

[Update: Shortly after the publication of this story Google’s Android Market was once again accessible in China. The original story below has not modified. - Editor]

China has blocked Google’s Android Market using the so-called Great Firewall of China, according to a report originating from Blocked In China, a site that simply tests and tracks websites that are blocked in Beijing, Shenzen, Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang Province, and Yunnan Province. The move is merely the latest in a running battle between the Chinese government, which wants to control all information in China, and Google, whose advertising and search business model depends on the free flow of information.

Android Market Banned in China

Android Market Banned in China

As of this writing, no one appears to know why China blocked Android Market, the online store for Android apps operated by Google. It could be that Google wouldn’t pull an app the government wanted pulled, or it could be related to the ongoing tiff started when Google refused to censor its search results in China, and instead rerouted Chinese visitors to its search engine to the un-censored Hong Kong version of its site.

At the same time, English-language Chinese gadget site M.I.C. Gadget tossed out speculation that China may be trying to give a leg up to local Android app stores, though there’s no indication that it has tried to similarly block Apple’s App Store or the online download services for other platforms.

As it is, Android devices sold through state owned carriers don’t come with Android Market preloaded in the first place. In its place are whatever download service is operated by that carrier, leaving users to discover Google’s Android Market and other competitors on their own.

Google has struggled in China, where the Chinese government has stacked the deck in favor of those companies that will play ball with its censorship and control requirements. Search market share leader Baidu, for instance, is rumored to have forked Google’s own Android OS to use for its own smartphone operating system, taking all the work that Google has done on the OS while leaving out all of Google’s services and would-be control over the platform (similar to what Amazon has done for its Kindle Fire tablet).

With no official word on the blockage, it’s not known if this is a temporary issue for Android users in China or a new roadblock for the company in the world’s largest mobile market.