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Google+ Blocked in China? No, Just Throttled

Thursday brought reports that China had blocked Google's new Facebook/Twitter lovechild (social website), Google+, in less than 24 hours after the company initiated its "limited" trial. The news was based on tests conducted by Chinese website Great Firewall of China who used a server within the country to ping local access to Google's site from across the globe. Beijing, Shenzen, Inner Mangolia and two other areas failed to connect to Google's domain. A separate test with Just Ping also showed the same "block."

But for now, that may not actually be the case. Penn Olson reports that China isn't blocking its citizens from Google+ at all. Instead, the government is throttling access to discourage locals from using the new social arena. The theory is based on the Just Ping tool again which – as of Friday morning – showed "packet loss" results with Chinese-based servers. Performing a traceroute also showed the routes from China to Google+ to be extremely slow.

"If it’s 100% of info packets being lost, then it’s very likely blocked, but if the number is lower, it’s likely just being throttled, or having some other issue," the site reports. "Perhaps this is where the others jumped to the conclusion."

Throttling is a new tactic being used by China's Great Firewall so that it appears that the country isn't preventing access to external sites. Access to all overseas websites have reportedly been reduced to a crawl since the beginning of the year. Gmail itself is described as "horribly throttled," taking users around five minutes to move from the login screen page to the inbox.

Penn Olson also notes that some Google+ IP addresses match those used by YouTube, meaning that the social site will inevitably be unavailable on some occasions in mainland China. The Great Firewall has already blocked various social websites outright including Facebook, Twitter, foursquare, YouTube and others. Google Buzz, on the other hand, is still accessible because the Chinese user base is so low, it's of no concern to authorities.

It's speculated that if Google+ doesn't gain any traction within the country, then it may not fall within the unilateral ban blanket. This is where the throttling comes in: to make access to the site so horribly slow, that Chinese residents won't have an interest and thus no reason to be blocked. Penn Olson suggested that Chinese authorities are trying to signal that Chinese citizens should use their own websites and read their own news, and that services like Google+ and Gmail are so slow, they're "rubbish."

Check out our hands-on experience and explanation of Google's + social push.