As Rebecca MacKinnon points out, Beijing News has reported (in Chinese) that Google China’s ICP license number was added to their homepage on Monday (China time). However, the number is the 5-year ICP license that Google China received in 2007 which needs to be re-approved annually, so what this action means is unclear [updated at bottom with Google response].
Also interestingly and new are three links to “Music”, “Translate” and “Shopping” right above the ICP number and below the recently added Google.com.hk link.
So what does all this mean? Well, only Google knows for sure, and as today is a federal holiday here in the US, we might not see an official response to this until tomorrow morning (we’ve emailed them for comment nonetheless). One likely scenario is that the current homepage represents the final deal that Google China has made with the Chinese authorities in exchange for having their ICP license re-upped (it expired on June 30, so some kind of decision should be forthcoming soon), to go along with phasing out auto-redirects of searches to Google.com.hk. Another possibility is that this is another preemptive move by Google to show more good faith if the final decision on the ICP license still hasn’t been made.
We’ll keep an eye on this story (it’s also barely 6am in China right now) and will update as more clarification comes in.
UPDATE: We have received word back from Google, and it seems as if this follows more closely to our second possibility of Google making another preemptive move to be more official looking. From Google PR:
“what you are seeing on the landing page is just our existing ICP license number at the bottom of the landing page. We have no news to report on our side and are still waiting to hear from the government.”
So the waiting game continues, we’ll just have to see for how long.