Google is planning to launch a censored version of its search engine product in China within the next nine months, according to leaked documents. The planned release, nicknamed Project Dragonfly internally, would see Google removing search results to comply with the Chinese government's strict censorship laws.
The leaked documents, which were published by The Intercept, reveal the extent to which Google is prioritising strengthening its presence in the Chinese market, with Ben Gomes, vice president of core search, describing China as "argulable the most interesting market in the world today" and somewhere where Google needs to have a presence.
"We need to understand what is happening there in order to inspire us," said Gomes in the documents. "It's not just a one-way street. China will teach us things that we don't know. And the people, as you work on this, both in the Chinese offices and elsewhere, paying attention to the things that are happening there is incredibly valuable for us as Google, potentially not just in China, but somewhere else entirely."
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, suggested back in August that Google's plans for operating in China were still in their early stages, but the leaked document implies that the project to re-enter the market is far more developed than initially thought.
Google removed its search product from China back in 2010, citing censorship issues. However, the company has recently made a number of deals with Chinese companies that aim to raise its profile in the nation, and has launched smaller-scale products designed to cultivate an audience among Chinese consumers.
China's leading search operator, Baidu, has reportedly welcome the competition that Google would present, despite online polls that suggest Chinese consumers would happily abandon the local platform and switch to Google.
Google has confirmed the existence of Project Dragonfly, but has denied that it has any plans to launch a search product in China in the foreseeable future.