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updated 7/29/2010 9:47:45 PM ET 2010-07-30T01:47:45

Google says its search engine and several other services are working normally in mainland China after previously reporting the service had been completely blocked.

The company's system for tracking Internet access may have misinterpreted what was happening to its search, mobile and advertising services in China, according to a Google statement issued late Thursday.

That probably caused a minor blockage to be exaggerated in a status report updated each day on Google's website.

The initial alert about Google's search engine being completely cut off from China raised questions about whether the country's communist government was retaliating against the company for taking a stand against its online censorship policies.

Google said in an emailed statement late Thursday, "Because of the way we measure accessibility in China, it's possible that our machines can overestimate the level of blockage."

"That appears to be what happened last night when there was a relatively small blockage. It appears now that users in China are accessing our properties normally," the company added.

The world's No. 1 Internet search engine has been reporting sporadic disruptions to its mainland China services since it threatened in January to pull out of the country because of its Internet censorship practices and after a cyber-attack.

Google had cooperated with the government's restrictions for four years, but said it had a change of heart after uncovering a computer hacking attack that it traced to China.

Even as it took a moral stand, Google sought to keep a toehold in one of the Internet's most promising markets by automatically shifting search requests from mainland China to its service in Hong Kong, which doesn't fall under the same censorship rules.

But that detour eventually riled China's government, prompting another change that required visitors to to click on the page to get to the Hong Kong search engine. That compromise paid off three weeks ago when China's regulators renewed Google's Internet license in the country for another year.

Even with that truce, some analysts wondered if China's government would still lash out at Google for its perceived defiance. Other analysts believed China would allow people to continue to click over to Google's Hong Kong search engine because it didn't want to discourage other technology companies from coming to the country.

China isn't a moneymaker for Google yet, accounting for an estimated $250 million to $600 million of Google's projected $28 billion in revenue this year.

But China is expected to become far more lucrative as its economy matures and even more of its population comes online. There is already more than 400 million Web surfers in China, exceeding the entire U.S. population.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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