It was just a few weeks ago that Gougou.com, China’s most notorious pirate content search engine, was added to the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) report on major copyright offenders. And now the service has finally shut down. Visitors to the site right now will see that the search box has vanished, and there’s just a bilingual notice; in English it says:
Gougou.com has been closed down. Thank you all for your support, and we are sorry for any inconvenience.
The Gougou site is run by the Chinese web company Xunlei, whose plans for a US IPO were blown apart last year due to the rampant piracy both on its Gougou search service and via its Xunlei P2P sharing platform. But Xunlei is keen to become a legitimate, Hulu-style video-streaming company, and so this closure might be a part of how it is finally cleaning up its act.
In the past, there were versions of Gougou for searching for pirated movies, music, software, games, and e-books. All those are now closed. When we last tried to access the site a few weeks ago (when we got hold of the USTR report), the site was offline and returning only an error message. Rumors of its imminent demise have been going round for over a year on the Chinese web – but it seems that, at last, the rogue search engine is dead.
But, proving that a many-headed hydra is hard to kill, many imitators, using the distinctive “Gougou” name remain online, such as gougousousou.com (“sou” means “search” in Chinese).
The Chinese web has cleaned up quite a bit in the last year or two, with the recent closure of the dodgy Yahoo Music portal, the removal of the Taobao online mall from the USTR blacklist, and the nation’s top home-grown search engine shifting to only licensed music on its streaming service.
Perhaps we’ll see Xunlei have another whack at an overseas IPO now that it has less (though still some) copyright concerns to list in a potential investors’ prospectus.