SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Google Inc said on Friday it will shut its once-popular China music download service next month, in a sign of how far the fortunes of the world's biggest search engine have fallen in China.
Launched in 2009 with a local partner, the Google Music Search was meant to be a legal music search competitor to Baidu Inc's popular music service, which at the time was providing users with links to copyright-infringing music.
But in early 2010, Google announced it would no longer be willing to comply with Chinese laws and censor searches in the world's largest Internet market.
As a result, the firm moved its Chinese site to Hong Kong and saw its overall search-market share dwindle. Since then, Baidu's overall share continued to grow and last year, Baidu launched a legal music search in a landmark deal with record labels.
"We have decided to shut down our Google Music Search service in China ... This is part of an ongoing effort across Google to bring greater focus to our portfolio of products," said a Google spokesman in an emailed statement.
Google Music Search users will be able to use and download their stored playlists until the service closes on October 19, Google said.
"The impact of this product was not as high as we expected, so we decided to divert our resources to other products," Yang Wenluo, Google China's engineering research general manager, wrote on Google China's blog. (http://www.google.com.hk/ggblog/googlechinablog/)
Google's products, such as Maps, search and Gmail, sometimes face accessibility issues in China. In June this year, Google launched a feature that would alert Chinese users searching on its Hong Kong site of words that were blocked.
China has over half a billion Internet users but operates in a closed ecosystem where Chinese Internet companies have to comply with local laws and censor topics deemed sensitive by the government. Facebook Inc, Twitter and YouTube are blocked in China.
(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Chris Gallagher)