Google users inside of China are unable to use Google's search suggestions feature, as Google awaits word on its ultimate fate in China.
Ever since Google announced it would offer Chinese language search out of Hong Kong rather than mainland China, it has maintained a "Mainland China service availability" page to track which Google services can be accessed from inside The Great Firewall and which have been blocked. At some point on Wednesday China began blocking searches done through Google Suggest, according to the company, which prompted Google to update that page with a little yellow wrench symbolizing a partial block of its Web search services.
"It appears that search queries produced by Google Suggest are being blocked for mainland users in China. Normal searches that do not use query suggestions are unaffected," Google said in a statement.
Some Google services have been blocked seemingly forever in China--such as YouTube and Blogger--but blocks on Web search tend to come and go. What makes Wednesday's block a little more interesting is the pending nature of Google's Internet Content Provider license, which it is attempting to renew by changing the way it redirects Google.cn visitors to the unfiltered Google.com.hk search service.
But in the end blocking search suggestions is merely annoying for Google.cn users who simply have to enter the full text of their query rather than rely on the drop-down box, which is especially helpful in countries that use character-based languages. Google Suggest has caused problems for Google in China before, as it did last year over search suggestions that Chinese officials believed were overly pornographic.