Google is reportedly using a website that it owns – that surprisingly, is not blocked in China – to build its new search engine for the company. While the majority of Google's services are blocked in China, one website that it owns – 265.com – is not blocked. It actually redirects to Baidu, which is the biggest search engine in China. But apparently, Google is able to still see what search queries are being executed on the site.
The big question here is why does this matter, and how is it going to help its search engine? Well, Google's engineers are able to sample those search queries and find out which sites are blocked in the country, and determine those that need to be hidden in its search results, when it does launch its search engine in the country. Some of the blacklisted topics include "Tiananmen Square Massacre" which would result in a blank page. With Baidu's search engine, if you search for something more broad like "Taiwan" you'll get a partially blank page. It'll only show search results for tourist destinations, but leave out politics and news.
Google bought the site 265.com back in 2008, when the search giant was still operating in the country. 265.com was initially founded in 2003. Google has kept 265.com around since buying it a decade ago, to find out what Chinese users are searching for. Now that the company is looking to create its own Android search app for the Chinese market, that data is going to come in handy. Google exited China in 2010, after it decided it no longer wanted to play the government's game with its censorship laws. That was in the early days of Android, and while Android is still fairly large in China, Google's services are not. While Google can bring its search app back to the country, bringing other services – particularly the Play Store – will be a much tougher task. The Play Store has plenty of competition in China, due to the fact that it was blocked from China. So virtually every smartphone maker has their own app store in the country. So launching the Play Store in China would be pretty difficult and many wouldn't even use it.